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Bioremediation of toxic heavy metals (THMs) contaminated sites: concepts, applications and challenges

Heavy metal contamination is a global issue, where the prevalent contaminants are arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr)(VI), mercury (Hg), and lead (Pb). More often, they are collectively known as “most problematic heavy metals” and “toxic heavy metals” (THMs). Their treatment through a variety of biological processes is one of the prime interests in remediation studies, where heavy metal-microbe interaction approaches receive high interest for their cost effective and ecofriendly solutions. In this review, we provide an up to date information on different microbial processes (bioremediation) for the removal of THMs. For the same, emphasis is put on oxidation-reduction, biomineralization, bioprecipitation, bioleaching, biosurfactant technology, biovolatilization, biosorption, bioaccumulation, and microbe-assisted phytoremediation with their selective advantages and disadvantages. Further, the literature briefly discusses about the various setups of cleaning processes of THMs in environment under ex situ and in situ applications. Lately, the study sheds light on the manipulation of microorganisms through genetic engineering and nanotechnology for their advanced treatment approaches.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.