The dual role of microbes in corrosion

ISME J. 2015 Mar;9(3):542-51. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2014.169. Epub 2014 Sep 26.


Corrosion is the result of a series of chemical, physical and (micro) biological processes leading to the deterioration of materials such as steel and stone. It is a world-wide problem with great societal and economic consequences. Current corrosion control strategies based on chemically produced products are under increasing pressure of stringent environmental regulations. Furthermore, they are rather inefficient. Therefore, there is an urgent need for environmentally friendly and sustainable corrosion control strategies. The mechanisms of microbially influenced corrosion and microbially influenced corrosion inhibition are not completely understood, because they cannot be linked to a single biochemical reaction or specific microbial species or groups. Corrosion is influenced by the complex processes of different microorganisms performing different electrochemical reactions and secreting proteins and metabolites that can have secondary effects. Information on the identity and role of microbial communities that are related to corrosion and corrosion inhibition in different materials and in different environments is scarce. As some microorganisms are able to both cause and inhibit corrosion, we pay particular interest to their potential role as corrosion-controlling agents. We show interesting interfaces in which scientists from different disciplines such as microbiology, engineering and art conservation can collaborate to find solutions to the problems caused by corrosion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Construction Materials / analysis
  • Construction Materials / microbiology*
  • Corrosion
  • Microbiota*
  • Steel / chemistry*


  • Steel