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Quantitative use of fluorescent in situ hybridization to examine relationships between mycolic acid-containing actinomycetes and foaming in activated sludge plants

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Russell Davenport, Professor Thomas CurtisORCiD, Professor Michael Goodfellow, Dr Fiona Stainsby


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The formation of viscous foams on aeration basins and secondary clarifiers of activated sludge plants is a common and widespread problem. Foam formation is often attributed to the presence of mycolic acid-containing actinomycetes (mycolata). In order to examine the relationship between the number of mycolata and foam, we developed a group-specific probe targeting the 16S rRNA of the mycolata, a protocol to permeabilize mycolata, and a statistically robust quantification method, Statistical analyses showed that a lipase-based permeabilization method was quantitatively superior to previously described methods (P << 0.05), When mixed liquor and foam samples were examined, most of the mycolata present were rods or cocci, although filamentous mycolata were also observed. A nested analysis of variance showed that virtually all of the measured variance occurred between fields of view and not between samples. On this basis we determined that as few as five fields of view could be used to give a statistically meaningful sample. Quantitative fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) was used to examine the relationship between foaming and the concentration of mycolata in a 20-m(3) completely mixed activated sludge plant, Foaming occurred when the number of mycolata exceeded a certain threshold value. Baffling of the plant affected foaming without affecting the number of mycolata, We tentatively estimated that the threshold foaming concentration of mycolata was about 2 x 10(6) cells ml(-1) or 4 x 10(12) cells m(-2). We concluded that quantitative use of FISH is feasible and that quantification is a prerequisite for rational investigation of foaming in activated sludge.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Davenport RJ, Curtis TP, Goodfellow M, Stainsby FM, Bingley M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Year: 2000

Volume: 66

Issue: 3

Pages: 1158-1166

ISSN (print): 0099-2240

ISSN (electronic): 1098-5336

Publisher: American Society for Microbiology


DOI: 10.1128/AEM.66.3.1158-1166.2000


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