Research by a microbiologist at La Trobe University is being used to mitigate the impact of treated sewage on the environment and human health.


Dr Daniel Tillett’s research aims to recreate recreate the right balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in wastewater treatment plants by using natural ‘bacteriophages’ –  viruses that are predators of bacteria, but harmless to other organisms.


“The aim is to prevent troublesome foaming, a common problem at sewage and wastewater treatment plants throughout Australia.  For example, one problem with foam is it can escape the plant and wash up on beaches where there is ocean outfall from sewage plants,” Dr Tillett said.


Foaming is caused by a build up of ‘bad’ bacteria which Dr Tillett’s research has shown can be kept in check by these ‘bacteriophages’


One of the dangers of foam comes from the harmful bacteria trapped in the foam bubbles. These bacteria can damage the environment and infect animals and humans. Occasionally they can cause some very serious infections that are very difficult to treat.