Ammonia to Nitrates in Just One Step

Ammonia to Nitrates in Just One Step

Comammox is a bacteria which completely turns ammonia to nitrates in a one-step process. It could significantly cut energy and financial costs of denitrification.

Ammonia naturally occurs in nature. Most of it is the product off bacteria in water and soil as the final product of plant and animal waste decomposition.

Aquatic life is harmed by ammonia, even in very low concentrations.

Nitrification is the biological oxidation of ammonia to nitrites and consequently to nitrates.

Until now, aerobic nitrification was done in a two-step process, using two types of bacteria: ammonia-oxidizing bacteria or archaea and nitrite-oxidizing bacteria.

Comammox (complete ammonia oxidizing) bacteria is an accidentally discovered bacteria which completely turns ammonia to nitrate in a one-step process.
Image: Comammox bacteria biology

It was discovered through shotgun DNA sequencing of biologically active filter samples at a drinking water treatment plant.

Comammox can oxidize both ammonia and nitrites.

The possibility of denitrification with a single organism could greatly reduce costs, reduce the energy needed for the treatment and therefore, reduce the carbon footprint.

So far, huge amounts of energy were used to remove nitrogen from water, wastewater treatment used 2-3% of all power consumption in western countries.

The breakthrough discovery was made while working on the EPSRC-funded Healthy Drinking Water project, led by the University of Glasgow, with Dr Ameet Pinto leading the team.

Comammox was detected in drinking water systems, wastewater treatment plants and groundwater and aquaculture systems.

Dr Pinto says: "The discovery of a single microorganism capable of full nitrification will have a significant impact on our understanding of the nitrogen cycle and on efforts to manage nitrogen pollution. The potential is there for the wastewater treatment sector to exploit this breakthrough.”

Read about: Metagenomic Evidence for the Presence of Comammox Nitrospira-Like Bacteria in Drinking Water System