Microbes in the News

Microbe glows while feeding on pollutants

Article synopsis:
A newly designed bacterium, genetically engineered to glow as it consumes toxic chemicals, will soon be released to feed on pollutants at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Article citation:
"Food Indigo," Scientific American, July 1995, p. 29.

Article summary:
The bacterium Pseudomonas fluorenscens can play an important role in cleaning up the environment because of its ability to break down napthalene, anthracene, phenanthrene and other toxic chemicals. Scientists have enhanced the usefulness of this microbe through genetic engineering. Genes which control bioluminescence have been taken from a marine bacterium and fused into P. fluorescens.

The newly created bacterium glows as it breaks down the toxic hydrocarbons. This gives environmental cleanup workers a visual clue that the toxic waste treatment is effective. This process will be tested outside the laboratory for the first time this fall when it will be used to clean up pollutants in the soil at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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