Thermophilic bacterial communities in hot composts as revealed by most probable number counts and molecular (16S rDNA) methods


*Corresponding author. Present address: Research & Development, Philip Morris Europe, CH-2003 Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Tel: +41 (32) 888 7616; Fax: +41 (32) 888 6808; e-mail:


Thermogenic composts are known to host a variety of thermophilic micro-organisms that were recently investigated by cultural means and identified as Thermus thermophilus, Bacillus spp., and Hydrogenobacter spp. In this paper, we present a classical, cultural enumeration of thermophilic populations on the one hand, and a molecular investigation of the bacterial community by restriction enzyme analyses of a clone library of bacterial 16S rRNA genes on the other hand. Bacterial diversity, revealed by the clone analyses of four samples, was shown to undergo a dramatic change between the young (13–18-day) and the old (39–41-day) samples, possibly linked to the general decrease in temperature and the physicochemical evolution of organic matter during the composting process. Among the 200 clones investigated, 69 clones could be identified as Thermus thermophilus and thermophilic Bacillus spp. These results proved both taxa to be among the dominant bacterial populations at the highest temperatures reached by thermogenic composts.