When Microorganisms attack: Protect your historical heritage!

ResearchBlogging.orgAn article in Applied Environmental Biology describes work characterizing microorganisms that degrade materials used to preserve cultural heritage objects. These are some heavy duty synthetic compounds which are commonly used to preserve or treat wood, cover objects to protect them from moisture, light, and avoid direct attack by microbes. This article describes some interesting findings of the types of organisms that attack these preservation materials. Table 1 lists fungi like Aureobasidium pullulans which can degrade Polyvinyl chloride, Chaetomium globosum which has enzymes (someone make sure and describe all of these in the genome sequence) to dissolve Polyurethane, several wood degrading fungi that break down Nylon (Phanerochaete can break down diesel fuel), and melanin producing fungi (like Cryptococcus?) that destroy acrylics.

Some interesting gems in here:

“Fungi belonging to the genera Paecilomyces and Cladosporium have been cultured from two synthetic polymers in the Apollo suits.”

“… fluorescent in situ hybridization helped detect [archaea and cyanobacteria] deteriorating the “Futuro” ski cabin designed by the Finnish architect Matti Suuronen, which was constructed in 1965 of glass fiber-reinforced polyester, polyesterpolyurethane, and poly(methylmethacrylate).”

Cappitelli, F., Sorlini, C. (2007). Microorganisms Attack Synthetic Polymers in Items Representing Our Cultural Heritage. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 74(3), 564-569. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01768-07

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