African Journal of

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Biotechnol.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1684-5315
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJB
  • Start Year: 2002
  • Published Articles: 12296

Full Length Research Paper

Lubricating oil-degrading bacteria in soils from filling stations and auto- mechanic workshops in Buea, Cameroon: occurrence and characteristics of isolates

Jane-Francis T. K. Akoachere1, Theresa N. Akenji1, Felicitas N. Yongabi1, Gerald Nkwelang1 and Roland N. Ndip1, 2*
  1Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Faculty of Science, University of Buea, P.O. Box 63, Buea, Cameroon. 2Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Faculty of Science and Agriculture, University of Fort Hare, P/Bag X1314, Alice 5700, South Africa.
Email: [email protected], [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 11 March 2008
  •  Published: 03 June 2008



The discharge of used crankcase oil from vehicles is a major source of oil pollution in Buea. The objectives of this study were to isolate and characterize bacteria capable of effectively degrading and cleaning up waste engine oil in this locality and also to ascertain the influence of some environmental factors on the rates of degradation of these isolates. Seventy-two soil samples collected from lubricating oil dump sites (3 auto-mechanic workshops and 3 petrol filling stations, comprising impacted soils) and uncontaminated plots (non-impacted soils) (controls) were analysed for oil-degrading and heterotrophic bacteria following standard microbiological and biochemical methods. The ability of cultures to degrade lubricating oil was also tested individually and in mixed bacterial consortium at different temperatures and nutrient concentrations. Results were analysed using the chi-squared test. P values of < 0.05 were considered significant. Heterotrophic bacterial counts were significantly higher (P< 0.05) in non-impacted than in impacted soils.  Conversely, the population of oil degraders was significantly lower (P < 0.05) in non-impacted than in impacted soils. Oil degraders isolated included Pseudomonas fluorescensBacillus mycoides and Serratia marcescens. Of the pure isolates, Serratia marcescensdegraded the highest amount of oil (36.2%).  However, a mixed culture of the isolates proved to be more effective, degrading 38.1% of oil within 20 days.  All the isolates exhibited highest degradation at 32°C; and degradation rates ofPseudomonas fluorescens and Bacillus mycoides increased with increase in nutrient concentration. This study, the first of its kind in Buea, revealed the presence of oil-degrading bacteria in soils as well as the physico-chemical requirements of these bacteria for optimum degradation. This finding could be exploited in case of oil-spill clean-up campaigns.







Key words: environmental pollution, oil-degrading bacteria, heterotrophic bacteria, physico-chemical factors, bioremediation, Cameroon.