Navigation Links
Poison-breathing bacteria may be boon to industry, environment

Athens, Ga. Buried deep in the mud along the banks of a remote salt lake near Yosemite National Park are colonies of bacteria with an unusual property: they breathe a toxic metal to survive. Researchers from the University of Georgia discovered the bacteria on a recent field expedition to Mono Lake in California, and their experiments with this unusual organism show that it may one day become a useful tool for industry and environmental protection.

The bacteria use elements that are notoriously poisonous to humans, such as antimony and arsenic, in place of oxygen, an ability that lets them survive buried in the mud of a hot spring in this unique saline soda basin.

"Just like humans breathe oxygen, these bacteria respire poisonous elements to survive," said Chris Abin, author of a paper describing the research published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology and a doctoral candidate in microbiology. "It is particularly fond of arsenic, but it uses other related elements as well, and we think it may be possible to harness these natural abilities to make useful products out of different elements."

Antimony, for example, is a naturally occurring silver-colored metal that is widely used by numerous industries to make plastics, vulcanized rubber, flame retardants and a host of electronic components including solar cells and LEDs. To make these products, antimony must be converted into antimony trioxide, and this bacterium is capable of producing two very pure kinds of crystalline antimony trioxide perfectly suited for industry.

Traditional chemical methods used to convert antimony ore into antimony trioxide can be expensive, time-consuming and they often create harmful byproducts. But the bacteria discovered by UGA researchers make antimony trioxide naturally as a consequence of respiration, creating a useful industrial product without creating noxious byproducts or requiring legions of specialized equipment.

"The antimony trioxide crystals produced by this bacterium are far superior to those that are currently produced using chemical methods," said James Hollibaugh, UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Professor of Marine Sciences and principal investigator for the project. "We tested the crystals we made alongside commercially available products that are 99 percent pure, and ours is either of identical or superior quality."

Hollibaugh and Abin think it might be possible for industry to maintain large cultures of their bacteria in simple holding tanks, feed it oxidized antimony and collect the antimony trioxide crystals as they form naturally. After harvesting the crystals, manufacturers would need only to feed more oxidized antimony into the tanks to keep the predominantly self-sustaining process going.

But the bacteria's usefulness is not restricted to refining antimony. It possesses a number of different enzymes that allow it to use other dangerous elements that accumulate in wastewaters near mines or refineries and pose serious threats to humans and animals. For example, the bacteria are capable of reducing other contaminants including selenium and tellurium.

Preliminary tests suggest that the bacteria could be used to remove these pollutants from the wastewater and protect the surrounding ecosystems.

"It might be used in one of two ways," said Hollibaugh. "The bacteria could be used simply to clean up the water, but it might also be possible for the bacteria to help humans recover and recycle the valuable elements in the water."

This way, says Hollibaugh, the water stays clean and industry doesn't waste a valuable strategic resource.

Both Abin and Hollibaugh caution that more research must be done before any of these applications are ready to deploy. UGA has applied for patents to protect these unique processes as well as the bacterium itself, and they are currently testing the bacteria's efficacy in different environments and conditions to discover how the bacteria react when they are exposed to a variety of metals simultaneously.

"UGA is currently seeking partners interested in licensing this technology and also partnering with professor Hollibaugh toward the development of additional industrial uses for the invention," said Gennaro Gama, senior technology licensing manager at UGA. "We believe this technology represents a feasible solution to many kinds of environmental contamination, but it also is useful for producing important commodities such as antimony trioxide, elemental selenium and tellurium."

Contact: James Hollibaugh
University of Georgia

Related medicine news :

1. Bacterial syringe necessary for marine animal development
2. Bacterial Skin and Skin Structure Infections Market: SSSI Pipeline Review, H2 2013 at
3. Fast Impetigo Cure Review
4. How To Treat A Bacterial Skin Infection Naturally – HealthReviewCenter
5. Skin And Skin Structure Infections (SSSI) Caused By Bacteria 2013
6. Researchers discover common cell wall component in Chlamydia bacteria
7. Decreased diversity of bacteria microbiome in the gut is associated with risk of colorectal cancer
8. Federal grant to fund development of dental fillings that self-heal, fight cavity-causing bacteria
9. Intestinal bacteria influence food transit through the gut
10. Urinary Tract Infection Market (UTI): Gram-Negative Bacterial 2022 Epidemiology Forecasts in New Research Report at
11. Bel Marra Health Reports on Recent Research Revealing a Link Between Intestinal Bacteria and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... 30, 2015 , ... The Progressive Dental Institute ... 29 and 30, 2016. The course welcomes dental professionals and members of their ... how to better succeed in the modern dental marketplace. The course combines presentations ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... , ... November 30, 2015 , ... ... key disease-causing component of bacteria could be effective in fighting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ... State University. , Their study showed that small molecule analogs that target the ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... NJ (PRWEB) , ... November 30, 2015 , ... Dr. ... With three office locations, patients can visit Dr. Margulies to experience the best available ... to hold the title of "NJ Top Dentist"! , Orthodontics is the branch of ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... ”Dying Words: The AIDS Reporting ... on December 1, 2015, to coincide with World AIDS Day. The multi-media project will ... covered the AIDS epidemic as he was dying of the disease. , A collaborative ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... According to RF Safe, the ... scientist at Consumer Reports as supporting a “A Call for Clarity” on cell ... The original Nov 2015 CR story titled, “Does Cell-Phone Radiation Cause Cancer?” ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... -- Kevin Smith has been appointed Chief Commercial Officer ... wireless monitoring of vital signs.  As CCO based ... Smith will be responsible for the development and ... also directly oversee partnering with US hospitals and ... the first early warning detection device to be ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... Nov. 30, 2015  The fee-for-service reimbursement ... U.S. medical imaging is on its way ... care payer-provider contracts are set to phase ... wake, alter provider-vendor relationships. The shift to ... forward new purchasing frameworks in the medical ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... SAN DIEGO , Nov. 30, 2015 ... ARNA ) today announced that the U.S. Food ... New Drug Application (NDA) for an extended release formulation ... offer patients a chronic weight management treatment in a ... currently approved as an adjunct to a reduced-calorie diet ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: