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Title: The role of sulphate-reducing bacteria in mercury-contaminated estuarine sediments : a case study of Durban Bay
Authors: Simpson, Elizabeth Anne
Issue Date: 2003
Stimulated by the findings of international researchers, that the sulfate-reducing microorganism Desulfovibrio desulfuricans could be incriminated in the process of mercury bio-methylation, it was decided to test this hypothesis on sediments from selected areas of Durban Bay where elevated levels of the bio-hazardous heavy metal had previously been detected. The Environmentek Division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Durban) is involved in an ongoing chemical assessment of heavy metal contamination (including levels of mercury) in the sediments of this estuary, but nothing is currently understood about the form in which mercury exists or the biological processes that could be determining its fate. The purpose of this project was to attempt to answer some of these questions. The study involved attempting to isolate, identify and quantify microorganisms of the species Desulfovibrio desulfuricans, Escherichia coli and Clostridium perfringens in one hundred and eighty sediment samples taken from three designated sites in the bay. Each sample was additionally analysed for total and methyl mercury and sulfate content, as well as a number of physical parameters. Based on the outcome of the initial survey, it was envisaged that further laboratory experimentation would be conducted to determine whether or not isolates were responsible for the production of the highly toxic organic mercury and whether this process was occurring in situ in the sediments. The findings of this project were contrary to what had been expected. Total mercury concentrations (apart from one instance) did not appear to be appreciably elevated in the areas under study. Similarly, the levels of methyl mercury were fourrd to be either diminished or absent. Numbers of D. desulfuricans were low and not uniformly distributed throughout the sediments. Cl. perfringens was more in evidence, but counts were not perceptibly increased. Sulfate levels were consistently high, indicating significantly impaired rates of sulfate reduction. Difficulty experienced in sub-culturing
Dissertation submitted in compliance with the requirements for the Master's Degree in Technology: Biotechnology, Durban Insititute of Technology, Durban, South Africa, 2003.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Applied Sciences)

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