Acidithiobacillus is a genus of the Acidithiobacillia in the "Proteobacteria". Like all "Proteobacteria", Acidithiobacillus spp. are Gram-negative. Some members of this genus were classified as Thiobacillus spp., before they were reclassified in 2000.[1]

Scientific classification

Acidithiobacillus albertensis
Acidithiobacillus caldus
Acidithiobacillus ferridurans
Acidithiobacillus ferriphilus
Acidithiobacillus ferrivorans
Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans
Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans

Both of these species are used in the biohydrometallurgy industry in methods called bioleaching and biomining, whereby metals are extracted from their ores through bacterial oxidation. They are also important generators of acid mine drainage, which is a major environmental problem around the world in mining.[4]

Genus Acidithiobacillus

Acidithiobacillus are acidophilic obligate autotrophs (Acidithiobacillus caldus can also grow mixotrophically) that use elementary sulfur, tetrathionate and ferrous iron as electron donors. They assimilate carbon from carbon dioxide using the transaldolase variant of the Calvin-Benson-Bassham cycle. The genus comprises motile, rod-shaped cells that can be isolated from low pH environments including low pH microenvironments on otherwise neutral mineral grains.


Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans has emerged as an economically significant bacterium in the field of biohydrometallurgy, in the leaching of sulfide ores since its discovery in 1950 by Colmer, Temple and Hinkle. The discovery of A. ferrooxidans led to the development of “biohydrometallurgy”, which deals with all aspects of microbial mediated extraction of metals from minerals or solid wastes and acid mine drainage.[5] A. ferrooxidans has been proven as a potent leaching organism, for dissolution of metals from low-grade sulfide ores. Recently, the attention has been focused upon the treatment of mineral concentrates, as well as complex sulfide ores using batch or continuous-flow reactors.

Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans is commonly found in acid mine drainage and mine tailings. The oxidation of ferrous iron and reduced sulfur oxyanions, metal sulfides and elementary sulfur results in the production of ferric sulfate in sulfuric acid, this in turn causes the solubilization of metals and other compounds. As a result, A. ferrooxidans may be of interest for bioremediation processes.[6]


Acidithiobacillus spp. occur as single cells or occasionally in pairs or chains, depending on growth conditions. Highly motile species have been described, as well as nonmotile ones. Motile strains have a single flagellum with the exception of A. albertensis, which has a tuft of polar flagellae and a glycocalyx. Nitrogen fixation also is an important ecological function carried out by some species in this genus, as is growth using molecular hydrogen as a source of energy - neither property are found in every species. Ferric iron can be used by some species as a terminal electron acceptor.


The order Acidithiobacillales (i.e. Thermithiobacillus[7]) were formerly members of the Gammaproteobacteria, with considerable debate regarding their position and that they could also fall within the Betaproteobacteria, but the situation was resolved by whole-genome alignment studies and both genera have been reclassified to the new class Acidithiobacillia.[8]

See also


  1. Kelly, D.P.; Wood, A.P. (2000). "Reclassification of some species of Thiobacillus to the newly designated genera Acidithiobacillus gen. nov., Halothiobacillus gen. nov. and Thermithiobacillus gen. nov". Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 50 (2): 511–6. doi:10.1099/00207713-50-2-511. PMID 10758854. Archived from the original on 2008-09-05. Retrieved 2008-02-12.
  2. Selman A. Waksman; J.S. Joffe (1922). "Microorganisms Concerned in the Oxidation of Sulfur in the Soil II. Thiobacillus Thiooxidans, a New Sulfur-oxidizing Organism Isolated from the Soil". J Bacteriol. 7 (2): 239–256. PMC 378965. PMID 16558952.
  3. Sand, W.; Bock, E. (1987). "Biotest System For Rapid Evaluation Of Concrete Resistance To Sulfur-Oxidizing Bacteria". Materials Performance. 26 (3): 14–17. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-20. Retrieved 2008-02-13.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. International Network for Acid Prevention, GARD Guide, Chapter 2   Accessed July 2018.
  5. Torma, 1980
  6. Gadd, G. M. (2004). "Microbial influence on metal mobility and application for bioremediation". Geoderma. 122 (2): 109–119. doi:10.1016/j.geoderma.2004.01.002.
  7. Acidithiobacillales entry in LPSN [Euzéby, J.P. (1997). "List of Bacterial Names with Standing in Nomenclature: a folder available on the Internet". Int J Syst Bacteriol. Microbiology Society. 47 (2): 590–2. doi:10.1099/00207713-47-2-590. ISSN 0020-7713. PMID 9103655. Retrieved 2019-02-23.]
  8. Williams, K. P.; Kelly, D. P. (2013). "Proposal for a new Class within the Proteobacteria, the Acidithiobacillia, with the Acidithiobacillales as the type Order". International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. 63 (Pt 8): 2901–6. doi:10.1099/ijs.0.049270-0. PMID 23334881.
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