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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Bacteria to clean oil spills - Scientists decoded the genes responsible

What not microbes can do? They are smallest molecular machines which we often use to make our hard work go ease and sometimes we highjack their mechanisms to do our work. Although it sounds rude but if you think over bacteria which also harm us might make u feel other way round.

Oil in water (Pixabay)

Bacteria adapt themselves based on the environmental ills and strict adverse conditions. They evolve and their genes get modified accordingly. So say hello to the marine microbes that can resist hard environmental conditions and use hydrocarbons as a source of energy. This bacterial mechanism can help us by cleaning oil spills.

At first, scientist needs to figure out which bacteria are the most efficient oil eaters and could be less harmful for the environment. Two scientists from the University of Texas at Austin, US decoded the genes that can enable microbes to metabolize oil.

“We successfully identified bacteria that degraded each of these compounds, and were surprised to find that many different bacteria fed on aromatic hydrocarbons, even though these are much harder to break down,” they write in an article. “Some of these bacteria, such as Colwellia, had already been identified as factors in the degradation of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill (in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico), but we also found many new ones.”

They go on to elucidate: “This included Neptuniibacter, which had not previously been known as an important oil-degrader during the spill, and Alcanivorax, which had not been thought to be capable of degrading aromatic hydrocarbons. Taken together, our results indicated that many different bacteria may act together as a community to degrade complex oil mixtures.”



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