Bacterial bioremediation of heavy metals in wastewater: A review of processes and applications

Publication Name

Journal of Water Process Engineering


Heavy metals, a treasure of nature, turns to be toxic at high concentrations in water. Among several methods adopted to alleviate heavy metal pollution, bioremediation is considered to be a sustainable, cost-effective technology. Bioremediation largely relies on bacteria, apart from other microbes and plants. The inherent and adaptive mechanisms evolved in bacteria to defend the metal toxicity include bioadsorption/biosorption, bioaccumulation, bioprecipitation and bioleaching. Heavy metal resistant bacterial strains are easy to culture and maintain, and even dead cell biomass display high heavy metal remediation potential in solution. All the heavy metal remediation mechanisms exhibited by bacteria in water is comprehensively reviewed with recent research outputs and in-situ and ex-situ techniques. The cellular mechanisms of heavy metal remediation are discussed, considering efficient bacterial strains, physiochemical parameters, nutrient supplementation and design of novel microbial techniques. Research at omics level would effectuate further manipulation of the cellular process and increase its efficiency. Bacterial heavy metal remediation technique provides double benefit of metal recovery and water purification, along with reuse prospects for both water and metal resources. Technological intervention could meet the challenges of process acceleration, resist biofouling, compete with native wild bacterial species in wastewater, design for commercialization. Industrial translation of the technology is the pivotal avenue to be tackled. Ultimately, understanding of bacterial heavy metal remediation process is essential for the implementation of this promising technology to safeguard the environmental health.



Article Number


Funding Sponsor

Ministry of Science and Technology, Pakistan



Link to publisher version (DOI)