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Back to the past: “find the guilty bug—microorganisms involved in the biodeterioration of archeological and historical artifacts”

Mazzoli, Roberto, Giuffrida, Maria Gabriella, Pessione, Enrica
Applied microbiology and biotechnology 2018 v.102 no.15 pp. 6393-6407
Archaea, albumins, biodegradation, bones, cellulose, collagen, cultural heritage, fungal communities, gelatin, hydrocarbons, lipids, microorganisms, nutrients, paper, rocks, wood
Microbial deterioration accounts for a significant percentage of the degradation processes that occur on archeological/historical objects and artworks, and identifying the causative agents of such a phenomenon should therefore be a priority, in consideration of the need to conserve these important cultural heritage items. Diverse microbiological approaches, such as microscopic evaluations, cultural methods, metabolic- and DNA-based techniques, as well as a combination of the aforementioned methods, have been employed to characterize the bacterial, archaeal, and fungal communities that colonize art objects. The purpose of the present review article is to report the interactions occurring between the microorganisms and nutrients that are present in stones, bones, wood, paper, films, paintings, and modern art specimens (namely, collagen, cellulose, gelatin, albumin, lipids, and hydrocarbons). Some examples, which underline that a good knowledge of these interactions is essential to obtain an in depth understanding of the factors that favor colonization, are reported. These data can be exploited both to prevent damage and to obtain information on historical aspects that can be decrypted through the study of microbial population successions.