Arsenic and Barium are ubiquitous environmental metal toxins that accumulate in higher trophic-level organisms. Arsenic is known to be the leading freshwater contaminant on the planet which is affecting millions of people worldwide. It is causing an untold number of deaths every year. Removing arsenic from groundwater and freshwater is a major challenge. Researchers at Tel Aviv University, Israel found a solution with the aid of bacterium living in sponge, and this biological model of arsenic detoxification was published in Nature Communications.
Have you ever heard of Sea Sponge? Poriferans or Sponges are the world’s simplest multi-cellular living organism with unique characteristics. They are invertebrates that live in symbiosis with sometimes hundreds of different types of bacteria similar to lichens of algae and fungi. Sponges are filter feeders which efficiently take up the nutrients like organic particles and microorganisms from the seawater, leaving the expelled water essentially sterile. Diverse range of microbes including heterotrophic bacteria, cyanobacteria, archaea bacteria, green algae, red algae, cryptophytes, din flagellates and diatoms are found in sponges.
Marine sponges naturally produce brominated organic compounds for chemical defense against predators and bio fouling. It is curiously interesting to know that Aplysina aerophoba, a bright yellow sponge is a host to diverse microorganisms which releases brominated compounds harmful to others but not to this microbial community. There is still plenty of research is to be able to exploit these natural processes which may one day lead to cost-effective and efficient bioremediation. Marine sponges serve as cues for scientific community to explore the wonders of sponges as chemical factory.