Importance and status of microbial conservation

Microbial biodiversity: World and India

In contrast to plants and animals, diversity of the microbial world is largely unknown, and, of that which is known, the diversity is enormous. 85 to 90% of the plants and vertebrate animals in the world have been described, but it is conservatively estimated that <1% of the bacterial species and <5% of fungal species are currently known. Due to the difficulties in cultivation of a number of microorganisms, still most of the earth’s microbial wealth is unknown to the world.

Being a country with diverse geographical and ecological features, India accounts for world’s 7.8% described species despite the fact that it shares only 2.5% of the world’s land area (Source: NBA, 2009). Besides the huge diversity of crop plants, mammals, reptiles, birds and fishes, India harbors a significant portion of the world’s microbial diversity also

Microbial group

No. of species described

% of India to the world
(including 1453 species of cyanobacteria)

(Source: National Biodiversity Authority’s 4th National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2009; Original source: Botanical Survey of India, 2009)


International status of conservation of microbial genetic resources

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD):
The CBD is the most comprehensive and significant international agreement that addresses all aspects of biological diversity including microbial diversity in a holistic manner. The CBD was adopted during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and had 191 countries as Parties. Reaffirming sovereign rights of nations over their biological resources, the Convention set three main objectives: (i) conservation of biological diversity; (ii) sustainable use of its components; and (iii) fair and equitable benefit sharing arising out of the use of genetic resources. India signed the Convention on 5th June 1992 and ratified it on 18th February 1994.To give effect to the provisions of the CBD, all the participating countries have shaped their legislations with the aim of conservation of biological diversity and its sustainable use. Conservation of microbial diversity, sharing of microbial resources and their utilization are also necessarily regulated by the laws framed in view of CBD.

World Federation of Culture Collections (WFCC) and World Data Centre for Microorganisms WDCM): The World Federation of Culture Collections (WFCC) is a multidisciplinary commission under the aegis of International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) and a federation within the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS).

It was founded in the year 1963. WFCC is concerned with collection, authentication, maintenance and distribution of microbial cultures and cell cultures. Its aim is to promote and support the establishment of culture collections and related services, to provide liaison and set up an information network between the collections and their users, to organize workshops and conferences, publications and newsletters and work to ensure the long term perpetuation of important collections.

Development of World Data Center for Microorganisms (WDCM) was a pioneering activity of WFCC. This data resource is being maintained at National Institute of Genetics (NIG), Japan and has records of nearly 640 culture collections from 73 countries where a total 2097767 microbial cultures (as of 2013) are being maintained. The records maintained with WDCM contain data on the organization, management, services and scientific interests of the collections.

Distribution of different microbial groups being conserved in different culture collections worldwide1

Asian Consortium for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Microbial Resources (ACM) and Asian Biological Resource Centre Network (ABRCN):
During 10th  International Congress on Culture Collections (ICCC-10) at Tsukuba, Japan in 2004, the Asian Consortium for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Microbial Resources (ACM) was established by representatives of 12 Asian countries (Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) with the objective to promote collaboration among government or public organizations in Asian countries for the purpose of enhancing conservation and sustainable use of microbial resources in Asia.

ACM appointed a task force for building Asian Biological Resource Centre Network (ABRCN) which integrated microbial strain database consisting of CGMCC (China General Microbiological Culture Collection Center, China; 9959 strains), NBRC (NITE Biological Resource Centre, Japan; 13113 strains), KCTC (Korean Collection for Type Cultures, Korea; 898strains) and BCC (BIOTEC Culture Collection, Thailand; 1088 strains).

 Holding of microbial cultures in Asian countries (Source: WFCC statistics)

European Culture Collection Organization (ECCO): The European culture collections have collaborated together since 1982, when the European Culture Collection Curators Organization was established to bring the managers of the major public service collections in Europe together to discuss common policy, exchange technologies and seek collaborative projects. The organization opened itself to staff and users of microorganisms and is now named the European Culture Collection Organization (ECCO).

There are currently 61 members from 22 countries with a holding of over 350,000 strains representing yeasts, filamentous fungi, bacteria and archaea, phages, plasmids including plasmid bearing strains and other recombinant DNA constructs, animal cells including human and hybridoma cell lines, animal and plant viruses, plant cells, algae and protozoa.

Different federations, societies and networks of Microbial Resource Centers in the world

  1. Asian Biological Resource Centers Network (ABRCN)
  2. Belgian Co-Ordinated Collections of Microorganisms (BCCM), Belgium
  3. Comité Consultatif des Ressources Biologiques (CCRB), France
  4. The Committee on Type Culture Collection of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CTCCCAS), China
  5. European Culture Collections' Organisation (ECCO)
  6. Federation of Czechoslovak Collections of Microorganisms (FCCM), Czechoslovakia
  7. Culture Collections Federation for Latin America and The Caribbean (FELACC)
  8. Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS)
  9. Communication Forum for Indonesian Culture Collection Curators (FORKOMIKRO), Indonesia
  10. Demonstration Project for a Global Biological Resource Centre Network (GBRCN)
  11. Health Protection Agency Culture Collections (HPACC), United Kingdom
  12. International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS)
  13. Japanese Society for Culture Collections database (JSCC), Japan
  14. Korean Federation of Culture Collections (KFCC), Korea
  15. Microbial Information Network of China (MICRO-NET)
  16. Microbial Resource Centers (MIRCEN UNESCO)
  17. Philippines National Culture Collections (PNCC), Phillipines
  18. Sociedade Brasileira de Microbiologia Coleções de Culturas (SBMCC), Brazil
  19. Cuban Culture Collection and other Biological Materials Section (SCCCMOMB), Cuba
  20. Thailand Network on Culture Collection (TNCC), Thailand
  21. Federation for Culture Collections (UKFCC), United Kingdom
  22. National Culture Collection (UKNCC), United Kingdom
  23. United States Federation of Culture Collections (USFCC), United States of America

Some leading culture collections in the world

Culture Collection
Type of accessions
Total accessions
American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), USA
Bacteria (B), Fungus (F), Yeast (Y) Algae (A), Virus (V), Protozoa (P), Cell lines (C), Plant tissue (PT), Seed (S)
German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures (DSMZ), Germany
B, F, Y, Plasmid (PM), C, V, Archea (AR)
CABI Bioscience UK Centre, UK B, F, Y
Korean Collection for Type Cultures (KCTC), Korea B, F, Y, PM, C, Microalgae (MA), AR
Laboratorium voor Mikrobiologie (LMG), Belgium B
National Collection of Type Cultures (NCTC), UK B, Mycoplasma (MY)
Pasteur Culture Collection (PCC), France Cyanobacteria (CY)
Sammlung von Algenkulturen (SAG), Germany MA
NITE Biological Resource Centre (NBRC), Japan B, Y, AR, Phage (PG), F
Microbial Type Culture Collection, MTCC B, F, Y, PM
Japan Collection of Microorganisms (JCM), Japan B, AR, Y
Colección Espagñola de Cultivos Tipo (CECT)/Spanish Type Culture Collection, Spain B, F, Y, AR
Centraalbureau voor Schimmelculture (CBS), The Netherlands F, Y
USDA ARS Culture Collection (NRRL), USA A, B, F, Y, Actinobacteria (AC)


National status of conservation of microbial genetic resources

Biodiversity Act and National Biodiversity Authority (NBA): In pursuance to the CBD, India enacted the Biological Diversity Act (BDA) in 2002 following a considerably long and in depth consultative process over a period of eight years after signing the CBD. In 2004, the Biodiversity Rule was notified to operationalize the BDA. The Biological Diversity Act gives effect to the provisions made in the CBD. It addresses access to biological resources and associated traditional knowledge to ensure equitable benefit sharing arising out of their use to the country and its people, thereby contributing to achieving the third objective of the CBD. India is one of the first few countries to have enacted such a legislation.

The Act is to be implemented through a three-tiered institutional structure: National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs). NBA was set up in 2003. Twenty eight states have established SBBs, and 31574 BMCs have been set up in different states. National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) was established with the aim to safeguard the biodiversity and regulating access to biological resources and associated traditional knowledge to ensure benefit sharing.

The SSBs regulate by granting of approvals or otherwise requests for commercial utilization or bio-survey and bio-utilization of any biological resource by Indians. The local level Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) are responsible for promoting conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity including preservation of habitats, conservation of land races, folk varieties and cultivars, domesticated stocks and breeds of animals and microorganisms and chronicling of knowledge relating to biological diversity.

National Agricultural Innovation project (NAIP) formulated in response to the National Policy on Agriculture has substantially emphasized on conservation and utilization of microbial genetic resources. ICAR coordinated network project “Application of Microorganisms in Agriculture and Allied Sectors (AMAAS)” has also addressed the issues of exploration and utilization of microbial diversity of India with special attention to agriculture.

Realizing the values of microorganisms in agriculture & industrial sector and considering the richness and diversity across diverse ecological zones of the country, India has taken significant initiatives in conservation of microbial wealth of the country. Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has taken a lead to establish a number of microbial repositories for industrially and agriculturally important microorganisms. Microbial Type Culture Collection (MTCC) at Institute of Microbial Technology (Chandigarh, Punjab) established by CSIR and Microbial Culture Collection (MCC) at National Centre for Cell Sciences (Pune, Maharashtra) established by DBT are devoted for the preservation of almost all kinds of microbes while National Agriculturally Important Microbial Culture Collection (NAIMCC) at National Bureau of Agriculturally Important Microorganisms (Mau, Uttar Pradesh) established by ICAR and National Collection of Industrial Microorganisms (NCIM) at National Chemical Laboratory (Pune, Maharashtra) are specialized repositories with the aim to conserve agriculturally and industrially important microbes respectively.

MTCC and MCC have gained the status of International Depository Authority (IDA) under the Budapest Treaty for deposition, preservation, safeguarding and exchange of microbes associated with patents across the globe. Apart from these microbial repositories, a number of other culture collections especially dedicated to the conservation of particular group of microbes like fungi, cyanobacteria have been established by the Govt. of India. Some localized microbial repositories also do exist in many of the research institutes and universities in India.

Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) at New Delhi has been a pioneer in the direction of conservation of microbes through dedicated conservation of fungi, cyanobacteria and Rhizobia since last several decades. At present approximately 30 microbial repositories exist in the country and according to WFCC statistics, India ranks second in holding of microbial cultures (215470 accessions) after Japan with 246343 microbial accessions. However, only seven (08) organizations as repository of different group of microorganisms have been recognized by National Biodiversity Authority (NBA).

Some important microbial culture collections in India

Sl. No.
1. Microbial Type Culture Collection (MTCC) Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh
2. Microbial Culture Collection (MCC) National Centre for Cell Sciences, Pune
3. National Collection of Industrial Microorganisms (NCIM) National Chemical Laboratory , Pune
4. National Agriculturally Important Microbial Culture Collection (NAIMCC) National Bureau of Agriculturally Important Microorganisms, Mau
5. National Facility for Marine Cyanobacteria (NFMC) Bharatidasan University, TN
6. Centre for Conservation and Utilisation of Blue Green Algae (CCUBGA) Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi
7. Indian Type Culture Collection (ITCC) Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi
8. National Collection of Dairy Cultures National Dairy research Institute, Karnal
9. Culture Collection DRDO (DMSRDE) DMSRDE, Kanpur
10. Fungal Culture Collection University of Delhi, New Delhi
11. Division of Standardization Indian Veterinary Research Institute , Izzatnagar
12. Collection of Insect Pathogens Marathwada University, Aurangabad
13. Rhizobium Culture Collection Division of Microbiology, IARI, New Delhi
14. NII Microbial Culture Collection National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi
15 MACS Collection of Microorganisms Agharkar Research Institute, Pune
16. Goa University Fungus Culture Collection and Research Unit Goa University, Taleigao
17. Culture Collection Division of Microbiology (CCDMBI) Bose Institute, Kolkata
18. National Fungal Culture Collection of India Agharkar Research Institute, Pune
19. Culture Collection, Microbiology and Cell Biology Laboratory Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore


Microbial repositories in India recognized by National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), India

Sl. No.
Microbial group/groups
Botanical Survey of India, Kolkata Lichens, Fungi
National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow Lichens, Fungi
Indian Council of Forest Research Education, Dehardun Lichens, Fungi
National Bureau of Agriculturally Important Microorganisms, Mau Agriculturally Important Microbes
Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh All kinds of microbes
National Institute of Virology, Pune Virus
Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi Microbes/Fungi
Microbial Culture Collection, Pune.
(since, 2013 )

(Source: National Biodiversity Authority, India)