Biodegradation of neutralized Sarin Academic Article uri icon


  • This research investigated the biotransformation of IMPA, the neutralization product of the nerve agent Sarin, by a microbial consortia. As mandated by the Chemical Weapons Convention signed by 132 countries in 1993, all chemical warfare agents are to be destroyed within ten years of ratification. Technologies must be developed to satisfy this commitment. This paper presents data from a biodegradation kinetics study and background information on the biological transformation of IMPA. Microbial transformation of organophosphate nerve agents and organophosphate pesticide intermediates can be incorporated into a treatment process for the fast and efficient destruction of these similar compounds. Sarin (isopropyl methylphosphonofluoridate), also known as GB, is one of several highly neurotoxic chemical warfare agents that have been developed over the past 50 to 60 years. Four mixed cultures were acclimated to the Sarin hydrolysis product, isopropyl methylphosphonic acid (IMPA). Two of these cultures, APG microorganisms and SX microorganisms, used IMPA as the sole phosphorus source. Extended exposure to IMPA improved the cultures' abilities to degrade IMPA to form methylphosphonic acid (MPA) and inorganic phosphate. The presence of free phosphate in the reactor suppressed the degradation of IMPA. IMPA did not inhibit either cultural consortia within the tested concentration range (0 to 1250 mg/L). The numax was 120.9 mg/L/day for the SX microorganisms and 118.3 mg/L/day for the APG microorganisms. Initial IMPA concentrations of 85 to 90 mg/L were degraded to nondetectable levels within 75 h. These results demonstrate the potential for biodegradation to serve as a complementary treatment process for the destruction of stockpiled Sarin.

published proceedings

  • Biotechnol Bioeng

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhang, Y., Autenrieth, R. L., Bonner, J. S., Harvey, S. P., & Wild, J. R.

citation count

  • 15

publication date

  • July 1999