Professor Christopher House's lab is working on waste treatment via anaerobic digestion followed by methanotrophic growth of Methylococcus capsulatus to produce a Vegemite-tasting protein/lipid-rich biomass that can be directly consumed. Alternatively, it could be used to feed other nutrient producing species. They built and tested a fixed-film, flow-through, anaerobic reactor to treat the wastewater.
During steady-state operation, the reactor achieved a 97% chemical oxygen demand (COD) removal rate with an organic loading rate of 1740 g d-1 m-3 and a hydraulic retention time of 12.25 d.
They tested the nutritional content: The M. capsulatus biomass consisted of 52% protein and 36% lipids, the H. desiderata biomass consisted of 15% protein and 7% lipids, and the Thermus aquaticus biomass consisted of 61% protein and 16% lipids.
Professor House says “It’s a little strange, but the concept would be a little bit like Marmite or Vegemite, where you’re eating a smear of ‘microbial goo’.”
Could the above species be genetically engineered to produce all the essential nutrients we need? Could something be done about the vegemite taste?:)