The increased demands for the production and transportation of oil across the world pose an immense risk of spill accidents. Oil spill events cause environmental disturbance that can influence the structure and function of ecological communities leading to varied recovery rates across different ecosystems. While microbes have been studied to degrade oil, the process of microbial biodegradation may be extremely slow. The large droplets of oil may end up sinking and accumulating over time, causing harm to the ecosystem if not broken down into smaller droplets and made available to the microorganisms for degradation.
To enhance the availability of the oil-based substrate to microbes and facilitate biodegradation, chemicals called dispersants have been applied in case of spill accidents. The use of dispersants, although promising in terms of stimulating microbe-mediated oil degradation, has been associated with detrimental effects on marine life, including toxicity to the oil-degrading microbial crew. This has raised questions regarding the use of chemical dispersants and highlighted the need for the discovery of naturally produced biosurfactants and/or emulsifiers that can stimulate the degradation of oil and prevent its sinking and sedimentation. The discovery of surface-active agents from biological sources would thus offer the advantage of being both environmentally friendly and non-toxic. A sustainable solution for the remediation of oil spills in the future, this discovery could hold great potential for commercialization.