Polyacrylamide (PAM), a linear water soluble polymeric compound with high molecular weight, is extensively used for oil production in China. Compared with the physico-chemical degradation of PAM, there is no acrylamide monomer, which causes peripheral neuropathy, released in the process of biodegradation. Unfortunately, few microorganisms have been isolated which can degrade PAM. In this study, two PAM-degrading bacterial strains, named HWBI and HWBII, were isolated from the activated sludge and soil in an oil field that had been contaminated by PAM for an extended period. These were subsequently identified as Bacillus cereus and Bacillus flexu, respectively. Both strains grew on a medium composed of 60 mg L(-1) PAM as the sole source of carbon. Although both strains degraded PAM in different rates, after 72 h cultivation more than 70% of the PAM was consumed. This degradation efficiency was much higher than previous studies. Both strains degraded a determinate proportion of PAM when 50-1000 mg L(-1) of the initial PAM was supplied. Glucose with a concentration lower than 200 mg L(-1) can be used as co-metabolism substrate with PAM. The Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) spectrograms of the cultures before and after PAM degradation were also recorded. The result showed that amido groups of the PAM were picked off by the microorganisms from the main chain of the PAM, and metabolism products other than acrylamide were formed in the degradation.
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