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Microbiology of Microplastics

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Self-sufficient Communities

The Problem


     Microplastics (particles <5 mm) are everywhere: from the bottom of the Mariana Trench to the top of Mount Everest. The diversity in size, material, surface chemistry makes their detection and study difficult. As research charges forward to study their effects on humans, animals and other macro-biology, we're deploying our expertise to study the smallest, most widespread microbes around us.

     The unique surface chemistry, size, and transport properties of microplastics through the environment provides new mechanisms for microbes, both beneficial and pathogenic, to propagate and evolve. Check back as we unveil our newest findings, but for now, follow along with our reading list below from our colleagues.

Reading List


Key readings on the Microbiology of Microplastics:

Critical Reviews:

  • Wright, RJ; Erni-Cassola, G; Zadjelovic, V; Latva, M; Christie-oleza, JA "Marine Plastic Debris: A New Surface for Microbial Colonization" Environ. Sci. Technol., 2020, 54, 11657-11672.

  • Oberbeckmann, S; Labrenz, M "Marine Microbial Assemblages on Microplastics: Diversity, Adaptation and Role in Degradation"  Annu. Rev. Mar. Sci., 2020, 12, 209-232.

  • Amaral-Zettler, LA; Zettler, ER; Mincer, TJ "Ecology of the plastisphere" Nat. Rev. Microbiol., 2020, 18, 139-151.

  • Onda, DFL; Sharief, KM "Indentification of Microorganisms Related to Microplastics" Handbook of Microplastics in the Environment, T Rocha-Santos et al. (eds.), 2021.


  • Bhagwat, G; Zhu, Q; O'Connor, W; Subashchandrabose, S; Grainge, I; Knight, R; Palanisami, T "Exploring the Composition and Functions of Plastic Microbiome Using Whole-Genome Sequencing" Environ. Sci. Technol. 2021, 55, 4899-4913.

  • Huang, Y; Zhao, Y; Wang, K; Zhang, M; Jia, W; Qin, X "LDPE microplastic films alter microbial community composition and enzymatic activities in soil" Environmental Pollution, 2019, 254, 112983

  • Wu, X; Pan, J; Li, M; Li, Y; Bartlam, M; Wang, Y "Selective enrichment of bacterial pathogens by microplastic film" Water Research, 2019, 165, 114979.

Bioindicators (Plastic and Anthropogenic Pollution):

  • Eckert, EM; Di Cesare, A; Kettner, MT; Arias-Andrew, M; Fontaneto, D; Grossart, H-P; Corno, G "Microplastics increase impact of treated wastewater on freshwater microbial community" Environmental Pollution, 2018, 234, 495-502.

  • Gillings, MR; Gaze, WH; Pruden, A; Smalla, K; Tiedje, JM; Zhu, Y-G "Using the class 1 integron-integrase as a proxy for anthropogenic pollution" The ISME Journal, 2015, 9, 1269-1279.

  • Powell, SM; Ferguson, SH; Bowman, JP; Snape, I "Using Real-Time PCR to Assess Changes in the Hydrocarbon-Degrading Microbial Community in Antarctic Soil During Bioremediation" Microbial Ecology, 2006, 52, 523-532.

  • Perez-de-Mora, A; Schulz, S; Schloter, M "MPN- and Real-Time-Based PCR Methods for the Quantification of Alkane Monooxygenase Homologous Genes (alkB) in Environmental Samples" Bioremediation, Methods in Molecular Biology, Chapter 4, SP Cummings (ed.), 59-69.

  • Wang, H; Yu, P; Schwarz, C; Zhang, B; Huo, L; Shi, B; Alvarez, PJJ "Phthalate Esters Released from Plastics Promote Biofilm Formation and Chlorine Resistance" Environ. Sci. Technol., 2022, 56, 1081-1090.

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