Special Issues are flexible collections of articles, that have a common topic. The articles may be published in various monthly issues.


Our cultural heritage is a defining feature of our societies that needs to be further inherited to future generations. However, this legacy is endangered by several instances, including biodeterioration. Indeed, microorganisms play a significant role in the decline of all forms of tangible cultural heritage, including movable (paintings, sculptures, coins, manuscripts), immovable (monuments, archaeological sites, etc.) and underwater cultural heritage (shipwrecks, underwater ruins and cities). Microbial colonization, biofilm formation and damaging metabolite production eventually result in critical decay. This Special Issue aims at mirroring the broad thematic variety and important advances in biodeterioration research, featuring a series of both original and review articles. These not only spotlight the efforts in anti-microbial strategies, but also the implementation of microbial-based technologies for heritage conservation and restoration.
Issue cover
Cover: Reproduction of prehistoric cave paintings of "La Cueva de los Caballos" at the Barranco de Valltorta (Spain), which date to about 7000 BC. The paintings exemplify Levantine rock art and show a hunting scene, involving men with bows and deer. The cover depicts corresponding drawings by Hugo Obermaier (1877-1946) as published in "Las pinturas rupestres del Barranco de Valltorta (Castellón)", H. Obermaier and P. Wernert (1919), Comisión de Investigaciones Paleontológicas y Prehistóricas, Madrid, p. 107 (image retrieved from Wikipedia); image modified by MIC. The cover is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. Enlarge issue cover


Murals meet microbes: at the crossroads of microbiology and cultural heritage

Maria A. Bauer, Katharina Kainz, Christoph Ruckenstuhl, Frank Madeo and Didac Carmona-Gutierrez

2021 | 10.15698/mic2021.12.765 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Our cultural heritage consists of manifold cultural expressions and represents a defining feature of our societies that needs to be further inherited to future generations. Even though humankind always fought a daily struggle for survival, at the same time, it seemed to have a spiritual need that went far beyond mere materialistic satisfaction and nowadays manifests in sometimes very ancient, yet brilliant artistic works. This fundamental legacy is endangered by several instances, including biodeterioration. Indeed, microorganisms play a significant role in the decline of all forms of tangible cultural heritage, including movable, immovable and underwater cultural heritage. Microbial colonization, biofilm formation and damaging metabolite production eventually result in critical decay. Thus, efforts to mitigate the negative impact of damaging microorganisms have been pursued with diverse physical, chemical and biological approaches. Intriguingly, recent advances have unveiled that specific microorganisms and microbial-based technologies also have the potential for cultural heritage preservation and present unique advantages. This short piece provides a quick overview on the duality of microorganisms in the conservation and restoration of cultural heritage.

Research Articles

Air- and dustborne fungi in repositories of the National Archive of the Republic of Cuba

Sofia Borrego, Isbel Vivar and Alian Molina

2022 | 10.15698/mic2022.05.776 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

This study has as objectives to determine the concentration and diversity of the air- and dustborne mycobiota in seven National Archive of the Republic of Cuba repositories, and to assess the potential risk of biodeterioration that isolated taxa may have. In the indoor and outdoor environmental microbiological samplings a SAS biocollector was used and the indoor/outdoor (I/O) ratio was determined for each repository. The settled dust was collected during six months. Sørensen’s coefficient of similarity (QS) was calculated to compare the isolated taxa among the three studied niches (indoor air, dust, outdoor air). The biodegradation potential of the isolated taxa was determined by semi-quantitative tests. The concentrations in the air of repositories with natural cross-ventilation ranged from 225.2-750.3 CFU m-3, while in the Map library with air-conditioning the concentration was significantly lower. The I/O ratios ranged from 0.1-1.7 revealing different environmental qualities. The maximum settled dust load was 22.8 mg/m2/day with a top fungal concentration of 6000 CFU g-1. 14 and eleven genera were detected in the air and dust respectively with predominance of the genera Aspergillus, Cladosporium and Penicillium. A QS of 0.8 was obtained between the indoor and the outdoor environments with eleven taxa similar evidencing the incidence of outdoors on the indoor mycobiota. The isolated taxa showed several biodeteriogenic attributes highlighting twelve and 14 taxa from indoor air and dust respectively with positive results for the five tests performed. This demonstrates the potential risk that fungal environmental represent for the preserved documentary heritage.

Dry biocleaning of artwork: an innovative methodology for Cultural Heritage recovery?

Giancarlo Ranalli, Pilar Bosch-Roig, Simone Crudele, Laura Rampazzi, Cristina Corti and Elisabetta Zanardini

2021 | 10.15698/mic2021.05.748 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

An innovative methodology is proposed, based on applied biotechnology to the recovery of altered stonework: the “dry biocleaning“, which envisages the use of dehydrated microbial cells without the use of free water or gel-based matrices. This methodology can be particularly useful for the recovery of highly-ornamented stoneworks, which cannot be treated using the conventional cleaning techniques. The experimental plan included initial laboratory tests on Carrara marble samples, inoculated with dehydrated Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast cells, followed by on-site tests performed on “Quattro Fontane” (The Four Fountains), a travertine monumental complex in Rome (Italy), on altered highly ornamented areas of about 1,000 cm2. The mechanism is based on the spontaneous re-hydration process due to the environmental humidity and on the metabolic fermentative activity of the yeast cells. Evaluation by physical-chemical analyses, after 18 hours of the biocleaning, confirmed a better removal of salts and pollutants, compared to both nebulization treatment and control tests (without cells). The new proposed on-site dry biocleaning technique, adopting viable yeast cells, represents a promising method that can be further investigated and optimized for recovering specific altered Cultural Heritage stoneworks.

Research Reports

Airborne bacteria in show caves from Southern Spain

Irene Dominguez-Moñino, Valme Jurado, Miguel Angel Rogerio-Candelera, Bernardo Hermosin and Cesareo Saiz-Jimenez

2021 | 10.15698/mic2021.10.762 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

This work presents a study on the airborne bacteria recorded in three Andalusian show caves, subjected to different managements. The main differences within the caves were the absence of lighting and phototrophic biofilms in Cueva de Ardales, the periodic maintenance and low occurrence of phototrophic biofilms in Gruta de las Maravillas, and the abundance of phototrophic biofilms in speleothems and walls in Cueva del Tesoro. These factors conditioned the diversity of bacteria in the caves and therefore there are large differences among the CFU m-3, determined using a suction impact collector, equipment widely used in aerobiological studies. The study of the bacterial diversity, inside and outside the caves, indicates that the air is mostly populated by bacteria thriving in the subterranean environment. In addition, the diversity seems to be related with the presence of abundant phototrophic biofilms, but not with the number of visitors received by each cave.

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