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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME - Vol. 63, No. 2 - Feature article
Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill washing ashore on Elmer's Island, Louisiana, USA, in May 2010. Inset: viability assay for the hydrocarbon-degrading bacterium Acinetobacter venetianus before (left) and after (right) exposure to COREXIT revealing inhibition by the chemical dispersant. Photo: Warren Wood; inset: Leila J. Hamdan

Hamdan LJ, Fulmer PA


Effects of COREXIT® EC9500A on bacteria from a beach oiled by the Deepwater Horizon spill


The dispersant COREXIT® EC9500A was widely used during the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil spill response. Microorganisms are important to the natural attenuation of spills; however, there is limited information on the effect of dispersants on microbial communities. The study was conducted to evaluate the toxicity of COREXIT® EC9500A to bacterial communities isolated from spilled oil. Non-hydrocarbon degrading Vibrio sp. were abundant in oil samples, and responded positively to moderate dispersant concentrations. Conversely, dispersant significantly reduced secondary heterotrophic production and viability in cultures of Acinetobacter venetianus and Marinobacter hydrocarbonoclasticus, both of which are hydrocarbon degraders. This study demonstrates the importance of understanding the impact of dispersants on environmental microorganisms in general and specifically on natural hydrocarbon degraders.


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