Table of Contents
ISRN Biotechnology
Volume 2013, Article ID 162645, 13 pages
Research Article

Use of PCR-DGGE Based Molecular Methods to Analyse Microbial Community Diversity and Stability during the Thermophilic Stages of an ATAD Wastewater Sludge Treatment Process as an Aid to Performance Monitoring

Department of Chemical and Environmental Sciences and the Material and Surface Science Institute (MSSI), University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland

Received 26 July 2013; Accepted 20 August 2013

Academic Editors: B. Castiglioni and A. D'Annibale

Copyright © 2013 Anna V. Piterina and J. Tony Pembroke. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


PCR and PCR-DGGE techniques have been evaluated to monitor biodiversity indexes within an ATAD (autothermal thermophilic aerobic digestion) system treating domestic sludge for land spread, by examining microbial dynamics in response to elevated temperatures during treatment. The ATAD process utilises a thermophilic population to generate heat and operates at elevated pH due to degradation of sludge solids, thus allowing pasteurisation and stabilisation of the sludge. Genera-specific PCR revealed that Archaea, Eukarya and Fungi decline when the temperature reaches 59°C, while the bacterial lineage constitutes the dominant group at this stage. The bacterial community at the thermophilic stage, its similarity index to the feed material, and the species richness present were evaluated by PCR-DGGE. Parameters such as choice of molecular target (16S rDNA or rpoB genes), and electrophoresis condition, were optimised to maximise the resolution of the method for ATAD. Dynamic analysis of microbial communities was best observed utilising PCR-DGGE analysis of the V6-V8 region of 16S rDNA, while rpoB gene profiles were less informative. Unique thermophilic communities were shown to quickly adapt to process changes, and shown to be quite stable during the process. Such techniques may be used as a monitoring technique for process health and efficiency.