Bacteria discovered in Chilika open door to new possibilities

Bio-products derived from these species could find uses in biotechnology sector and may help fishers find alternative source of living

By Sushmita Sengupta
Published: Wednesday 05 February 2014

The lagoon has always been a hot spot of biodiversity and shelters number of endangered species. (Photo: Ashis Senapati)

Researchers have discovered two novel species of bacteria in the Chilika lake on the coast of Odisha. These produce enzymes which are biodegradable and could prove useful in the biotechnology sector.

The bacteria, which have been named Streptomyces chilikensis and Streptomyces barkulensis, were discovered during a random sampling of shoreline sediment of Chilika, said Ajit Kumar Pattanaik, chief executive of Chilika Development Authority (CDA). The species have been named after the Chilika lagoon and a locality near the lagoon.

Gurdeep Rastogi, senior scientist with CDA, said the sampling of shoreline sediment of Chilika was done during the recent preparation of ecosystem health card by the lake authority. The CDA recently started to grade different portions of the lagoon according to water quality, livelihood and biodiversity and are disseminating the result through a report card for researchers and the stakeholders.

According to CDA, the newly discovered species are highly resistant to high pH and salinity. These micro-organisms can produce important enzymes like chitinases, lipases, proteases, amylases, cellulases and pectinases which are very important for biotechnology sector. Rastogi explains that these enzymes can replace synthetic chemicals used in industrial processes.

Pattanaik hopes these bacteria and their bio-products can help local fishers find alternative sources of income. According to CDA, marine micro-organisms have the potential of contributing new capabilities to tackle problems associated with climate change, biodiversity and environmental quality. Many microbes produce enzymes which serve as bio-catalysts. They can be used in place of harsh chemicals that industries discharge after use in the form of effluents that pollute water bodies and the environment.  Bio-products from microbes can be used in food, pharmaceutical and fermentation industries, say CDA sources. The immediate benefits could include improved management of fishery resources, enhanced production of useful microbial species, for aquaculture and development of biofuels, adds Rastogi (food waste has components like cellulose and starch, which in the presence of micro-organisms or its enzymes get converted to bio-ethanol which can be used as bio fuel).

Ajit Kumar Pattanaik is the chief executive of Chilika Development Authority which has recently graded different portions of the lagoon according to water quality, livelihood and biodiversity. (Photo:  Sushmita Sengupta)

The discovery is the result of a collaborative research undertaken by CDA and the School of Biotechnology at Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, to explore microbes. According to Vishaka Raina, associate professor at the school, the discovery of the novel species has raised hopes that bio-products derived from these species could be used in the biotechnology industry as raw materials.

Elaborating on the discovery, Rastogi says that the surface and subsurface shoreline sediment samples were collected from five different points of the lagoon. In the laboratory, the bacteria were isolated and enriched for seven days. The bacteria were identified through different biochemical and molecular methods.

The two bacteria have been isolated from a boat dockyard and fish dumping yard sediment sample, collected at the Chilika lake coast near the CDA office in Chandraput area and Pantha Niwas, a state tourist resort in district Khurdha.  CDA sources say that the gene sequences of the bacteria were catalogued in Gen Bank, a database maintained by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in the US.

Chilika lake, whose water spread is 90 sq km in the summer and 1,165 sq km during the monsoon, is ecologically defined as a lagoon. It is a unique combination of marine, brackish and fresh ecosystems and is one of the Ramsar sites in India. The lagoon has always been a hot spot of biodiversity and shelters number of endangered species. The lagoon supports more than 0.2 million fisher folk with its rich fishery resources. The lagoon was placed in the Montreux record (threatened list of Ramsar sites) in 1993 by Ramsar bureau because of degradation in its ecological characteristics. This concern led to the creation of CDA in 1992; the authority had the mandate to restore and undertake overall development of the lagoon. In 2002, the lagoon was removed from the Montreux report. The lagoon is considered one of the well-studied wetlands and its biodiversity has been documented in detail.

These bacteria and their bio-products can help local fishers find alternative sources of income. (Photo:  Sushmita Sengupta)

The exploration of microbes of Chilika has never been done before, says CDA. Pattanaik explains that the species got recognition in the international research society as it has been discussed in the leading scientific journal, International Journal of Scientific and Evolutionary (IJSEM) in 2013. The journal is published by the Society for General Microbiology (SGM) in the United Kingdom. 

According to Rastogi, similar studies on microbes for improvement of livelihood have been conducted in Loktak lake in Manipur and lake Bogoria, Kenya, Africa. Isolation of such beneficial bacteria has been done around the world near springs, alkaline lakes, acidic ponds and hydrothermal lakes.

An example where isolation of micro-organism has been done for sustainable livelihood is Yellow Stone National Park in USA. The micro-organism here has been isolated from sediments near hot spring. In 1968, Thomas Brock, a microbiologist at the University of Wisconsin, discovered a form of bacteria in the thermal vents of Yellowstone that can survive at very high temperature. From these bacteria an enzyme, that is stable at near-boiling temperatures, was extracted. The enzyme proved to be vital in the process known as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which is used to duplicate specific pieces of DNA. Today, PCR is the basis of a multimillion dollar business with applications ranging from rapid  diagnosis of disease to forensic medicine.

Isolation and identification of pathogenic bacteria from brackish waters of Chilika Lagoon, Odisha, India for pharmaceutical use

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