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Many substances known to have toxic properties are regularly introduced into the environment through human activity. These substances which include hydrocarbons range in degree of toxicity and danger to human health. Frequent oil spills incidents have become a problem to ecological protection efforts. Conventional methods to remove, reduce or mitigate toxic substances introduced into soil via anthropogenic activities suffer setbacks due to the level of risk involved but bioremediation offers an alternative method to detoxify contaminants especially if the soil conditions are amended with organic nutrients or growth enhancing co-substrates. This study was therefore aimed characterizing hydrocarbon utilizing microorganisms associated with crude oil contaminated soils. Soils were obtained from the Rivers State University Agricultural farm contaminated deliberately with crude oil and allowed for 21 days to mimic the natural polluted soil. Sample collection and analyses were carried out according to standard microbiological procedures while characterization of the isolates was done using genomic studies. The results of microbial counts obtained from the soil samples for total heterotrophic bacteria ranged from 2.10 x108 to 2.58 x108 cfu/g, Total heterotrophic fungi had 1.6 x105 to 2.0 x105 cfu/g while the hydrocarbon utilizing bacteria ranged from 8.0 x103 to 5.0 x104 cfu/g and total hydrocarbon utilizing fungi ranged from 9.0 x103 to 7.0 x104 cfu/g in the contaminated soil. Five hydrocarbon utilizing bacterial species were identified as Staphylococcus saprophyticus, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Comamonas testosteroni and Chryseobacterium cucumeris while five hydrocarbon utilizing fungal species were identified as Penicillium citrinum, Penicillium brocae, Fusarium solani, Kodamaea ohmeri and Lentinus squarrosulus. Bacillus and Penicillium species were predominantly isolated from the soil. This may be due to the ability of the organisms to produce spores, which may shield them from the toxic effects of the hydrocarbons. Since these organisms are able to utilize crude oil as their sole carbon source. Hence, can be used for bioremediation of crude oil polluted environment.
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