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Bioremediation of Soils, Contaminated by Yperite


Development of Microbiological Technology for Bioremediation of Soils, Contaminated by Chemical Warfare Agent Yperite

Tech Area / Field

  • BIO-REM/Bioremediation/Biotechnology
  • BIO-MIB/Microbiology/Biotechnology
  • ENV-RED/Remediation and Decontamination/Environment

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Wol'f O V

Leading Institute
Research Center of Toxicology and Hygienic Regulation of Biopreparations, Russia, Moscow reg., Serpukhov

Supporting institutes

  • Russian Academy of Sciences / Center for Ecological Safety, Russia, St Petersburg


  • Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg, Germany, Hamburg\nUniversity of Maryland / Department of Natural Resources and Landscape Architecture, USA, MD, College Park

Project summary

The object of the project is creating technology for bioremediation of soils contaminated by yperite on the basis of isolated natural strains of microorganisms-degraders.

The chlororganic compounds belong to the most wide spread pollutants of ecological systems. Many of them are chemically stable, toxic, and, owing to this, they accumulate and stay for a long time in the environment effecting it negatively. That kind of stable chlororganic compounds with increased toxicity and broad spectrum of effect on living organisms is poison gas yperite and chlorine containing products of its hydrolysis in water.

Contamination of the environment by yperite took place during war conflicts and continues at present in process of its keeping, at transportation, destruction, in accidents and so on. Russia and other countries having great stocks of yperite are confronted with the problem of protection of nature from its harmful effect and bioremediation of polluted ecosystems.

For destroying of chemical substances with various level of toxicity and cleanup of polluted soils, physical, chemical and biological methods are used. Most perspective ones are biotechnological methods owing to their ecological safety, low cost, high effectiveness and simplicity of realization and others. This position is proved convincingly by examples of using biological methods for cleaning soils from oil, oil products, phenol compounds, pesticides, herbicides and so on. The investigations carried out in Russia and other countries for working out biotechnology for protection of environment from high toxic substances confirm and ground the expediency of carrying out investigations on bioremediation of soils contaminated by yperite.

The principal complication in degradation of yperite is its heighten toxicity and also toxicity of the main product of its hydrolysis in water (thiodiglycol). Since till now there have not been isolated microorganisms able to dechlorinate yperite effectively (with high speed and at high concentration of biodegrading substrate) and at the same time to consume the forming thioglycol, biotechnological methods as independent one or as a part of a complex (with physical-and-chemical methods) is not worked out.

In the present project it is planed to carry out the research of natural strains of microorganisms-destructants of yperite and thiodiglycol. It is in tended to extract the microorganisms from soils of different types in which it is introduced yperite and products of its hydrolysis in experimental conditions. After that it is intended to carry out selections of most perspective (according to their destructive activity) and safe for environment microorganisms. It is planed to develop the conditions of conducting the process of destruction of yperite with utilization of selected cultures-destructants.

On laboratory animals (white mice and rats) there will carried out the toxicological test of safety of selected strains of microorganisms for warm-blooded animals and man. On the grounds of results of laboratory experiments there will defined the speed and level of destruction of toxicants and determined main parameters of bioremediation of polluted soils. With the purpose to estimate the effectiveness of microbial decomposition and detoxication of yperite and thiodiglicol in natural conditions it is planed to carry out the field testing on soils polluted with investigated toxins.

The results of laboratory and field test will be used for working out the technology of bioremediation of soils polluted with yperite and products of its hydrolysis. Such biotechnology can find application for cleanup of territories polluted with toxic chlororganic substances used in agriculture and industry and also get in surroundings by destruction, transportation, keeping of chemical weapons.

The collective of investigators–participants of project consists of microbiologists, biochemists, toxicologists, chemists, ecologists and biotechnologists having great experience of work on creation of ecological safe technologies of bioremediation of soils polluted with toxic chemical compounds.

In RCT&HRB there is a collection of microorganisms–destructants of various toxicants; the methods for assessment of harmlessness of selected natural microorganisms for warm-blooded animals and humans have been worked out in laboratory animals. The methods for biotesting on integral toxicity have been developed. The Center's specialists have conducted some investigations on ISTC Project #228-96 on developing technology for bioremediation of soil polluted with polychlorinated biphenyls. Ecologically safe technology for soil bioremediation has been developed and 3 international PCT patent applications on strains of microorganisms-PCB degraders have been received. At present this technology is applied in Russia, BADCAT tender on cleanup of a territory in San-Francisco (USA) was won. In SRCES RAS methods of selection of strains able to degrade xenobiotics of various chemical nature including products of detoxication of chemical weapons, products of processing of shales and so on, have been developed. In the same institute there are specialists on estimation of ecological conditions of soils polluted with ions of heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic carbohydrates, oil, chlororganic compounds and others, and also specialists in bioremediation of polluted soils. They carry out on high professional level the investigation of physiological-biochemical properties of degraders of xenobiotics, on working out of methods of directed regulation of their destructive activity. In SRCES RAS there is a good equipped chemical laboratory for study of processes of biochemical destruction of xenobiotics and analysis of forming products.

Since all responsible executors of project from RCT&HRB were connected with working out the protective means against biological weapons, the project meets the conversion purposes and tasks of ISTC.

Foreign collaborators could take part in project in following main directions:

– informative provision of project, creation of data base and preparation of joint analytical reviews (for publication in Russian and English);

– consultative assistance on optimization of bioremediation of soils polluted with yperite and its derivatives;
– seminars on discussion of sums of some complete stages of project;
– independent laboratory experiments on checking degrading ability of isolated natural microorganisms, decomposing yperite;
– joint field experiments on assessment of biotechnology in US or European conditions;
– reviewing reports, articles and recommendations prepared for publishing;
– preparing materials on patenting of microorganism strains and patenting in collaborators’ countries.


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