Remedial Treatment of Corroded Iron Objects by Environmental Aeromonas Isolates
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Using bacteria to transform reactive corrosion products into stable compounds represents an alternative to traditional methods employed in iron conservation. Two environmental Aeromonas strains (CA23 and CU5) were used to transform ferric iron corrosion products (goethite and lepidocrocite) into stable ferrous iron-bearing minerals (vivianite and siderite). A genomic and transcriptomic approach was used to analyze the metabolic traits of these strains and to evaluate their pathogenic potential.
... Although genes involved in solid-phase iron reduction were identified, key genes present in other environmental iron-reducing species are missing from the genome of CU5. Several pathogenicity factors were identified in the genomes of both strains, but none of these was expressed under iron reduction conditions. Additional in vivo tests showed hemolytic and cytotoxic activities for strain CA23 but not for strain CU5. Both strains were easily inactivated using ethanol and heat. Nonetheless, given a lesser potential for a pathogenic lifestyle, CU5 is the most promising candidate for the development of a bio-based iron conservation method stabilizing iron corrosion. Based on all the results, a prototype treatment was established using archaeological items. On those, the conversion of reactive corrosion products and the formation of a homogenous layer of biogenic iron minerals were achieved. This study shows how naturally occurring microorganisms and their metabolic capabilities can be used to develop bio-inspired solutions to the problem of metal corrosion. IMPORTANCE Microbiology can greatly help in the quest for a sustainable solution to the problem of iron corrosion, which causes important economic losses in a wide range of fields, including the protection of cultural heritage and building materials. Using bacteria to transform reactive and unstable corrosion products into more-stable compounds represents a promising approach. The overall aim of this study was to develop a method for the conservation and restoration of corroded iron items, starting from the isolation of iron-reducing bacteria from natural environments. This resulted in the identification of a suitable candidate (Aeromonas sp. strain CU5) that mediates the formation of desirable minerals at the surfaces of the objects. This led to the proof of concept of an application method on real objects.