Ample arsenite bio-oxidation activity in Bangladesh drinking water wells: A bonanza for bioremediation?

Zahid Hassan, Munawar Sultana, Sirajul I. Khan, Martin Braster, Wilfred F.M. Röling, Hans V. Westerhoff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Millions of people worldwide are at risk of arsenic poisoning from their drinking water. In Bangladesh the problem extends to rural drinking water wells, where non-biological solutions are not feasible. In serial enrichment cultures of water from various Bangladesh drinking water wells, we found transfer-persistent arsenite oxidation activity under four conditions (aerobic/anaerobic; heterotrophic/autotrophic). This suggests that biological decontamination may help ameliorate the problem. The enriched microbial communities were phylogenetically at least as diverse as the unenriched communities: they contained a bonanza of 16S rRNA gene sequences. These related to Hydrogenophaga, Acinetobacter, Dechloromonas, Comamonas, and Rhizobium/Agrobacterium species. In addition, the enriched microbiomes contained genes highly similar to the arsenite oxidase (aioA) gene of chemolithoautotrophic (e.g., Paracoccus sp. SY) and heterotrophic arsenite-oxidizing strains. The enriched cultures also contained aioA phylotypes not detected in the previous survey of uncultivated samples from the same wells. Anaerobic enrichments disclosed a wider diversity of arsenite oxidizing aioA phylotypes than did aerobic enrichments. The cultivatable chemolithoautotrophic and heterotrophic arsenite oxidizers are of great interest for future in or ex-situ arsenic bioremediation technologies for the detoxification of drinking water by oxidizing arsenite to arsenate that should then precipitates with iron oxides. The microbial activities required for such a technology seem present, amplifiable, diverse and hence robust.

Original languageEnglish
Article number246
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
Issue number8
Early online date8 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


Funding: This work was financially supported by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) in the integrated program of WOTRO (W01.65.324.00/project 4), Science for Global Development as well as by various systems biology grants, including Synpol: EU-FP7 (KBBE.2012.3.4-02 #311815), Corbel: EU-H2020 (NFRADEV-4-2014-2015 #654248), Epipredict: EU-H2020 MSCA-ITN-2014-ETN: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks (ITN-ETN) #642691, BBSRC China: BB/J020060/1.

FundersFunder number
BBSRC ChinaBB/J020060/1
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
WOTROEU-FP7, NFRADEV-4-2014-2015, W01.65.324.00, EU-H2020
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme642691, 311815, 654248
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek


    • AioA
    • Arsenite oxidation
    • Bioenergetics
    • Bioremediation
    • Systems microbial ecology
    • Water


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