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Assessing the effects of bacterial predation on membrane biofouling

Kim, Eun-Ho, Dwidar, Mohammed, Mitchell, Robert J., Kwon, Young-Nam
Water research 2013 v.47 pp. 6024-6032
Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus, Escherichia coli, bacteria, biofouling, coculture, microfiltration, predation, viability, wastewater, water treatment
Membrane biofouling is one of the major obstacles limiting membrane applications in water treatment. In this study, Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus HD 100, a Gram-negative predatory bacterium, was evaluated as a novel way to mitigate membrane biofouling and its subsequent performance decline. Dead-end microfiltration (MF) tests were carried out on Escherichia coli DH5α and B. bacteriovorus HD 100 co-culture feed solutions. Predation of E. coli was performed at either a low or high multiplicity of infection (MOI), which is defined as the predator to prey cell ratio. The MOIs tested were 2 and 200, and the viability of both the E. coli prey and the predator was monitored over 48 h. The higher MOI (high predator, HP) culture showed a nearly 6-log loss in E. coli number after 24 h when compared to both the control and low MOI (low predator, LP) cultures, whereas the E. coli population within both predated cultures (HP and LP) became nearly identical at 48 h and 4-log lower than that of the control. The unpredated cultures led to significant loss in water flux at 12, 24, and 48 h of culture, but the HP and LP membranes showed less loss of flux by comparison. Analysis of the total membrane resistance showed a similar trend as the flux decline pattern; however, irreversible resistance of the membrane was much higher for the 48 h LP culture compared to the unpredated and HP cultures at 48 h. This increase in irreversible resistance was attributed mainly to E. coli debris, which accumulated in the medium after the predator lysed the prey cells. These results show that pretreatment of wastewater using a suitable concentration of predatory bacteria such as B. bacteriovorus can enhance membrane performance.