Grime-eating bacteria to restore classical art


    In Context 

    • The role of microorganisms has been recognised in protecting the artistic heritage of humanity since the 1980s when the bacteria Desulfovibrio Bulgaria was used. 
      • Earlier Art restorers have usually employed chemical agents and, more recently laser techniques, to remove dirt, oil, glue, or pollutants from monuments, stoneworks, and paintings. 


    • The researchers first used the bacteria Desulfovibrio Vulgaris to clean a marble monument at the Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, US.
      • Desulfovibrio Vulgaris is a Gram-negative, anaerobic, non-spore-forming, curved rod-shaped bacteria, that can be found in soil, animal intestines and faeces, and fresh and saltwater
    • It went on to meet several artworks, including, in 2013, the Allegoria Della Morte — the Allegory of Death — at the English Cemetery in Florence. 

    Other bacteria used 

    • Pseudomonas stutzeri has been trusted to clean a range of monuments, as well as the stones of historic bridges and granite slabs of chapels in Spain.
    • This strain of bacteria was used for the bio-restoration of frescoes in the 17th century Church of Santos Juanes in Valencia, Spain, and murals of the Camposanto Monumentale di Pisa in Italy
    • Recently P. stutzeri was used to clean the 14th-century Triumph of Death fresco at the Campo Santo. The cemetery was bombed during World War II.
    • Pseudomonas stutzeri is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped, motile, single polar-flagellated, soil bacterium that was first isolated from human spinal fluid and is widely distributed in the environment. 

    Significance for India 

    •  Bio-restoration can save many of India’s monuments. 
    • In 2014, a paper published by researchers from Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala, and Curtin University in Perth, Australia, noted that calcifying bacteria could be used for remediation of stones and cultural heritage monuments, including the Taj Mahal.