Bacteria May Be Star Player in Toxic Cleanup

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Boost for Bioremediation?

In the lab, the bacterium thrived as long as the researchers kept feeding it TCA. "We have not recreated the bacterium in the lab but enriched its activity and isolated a pure culture from the sediment source," said Sun.

TCA1 is "a naturally occurring bug—it's like we captured a wild animal and brought it into a zoo," Griffin added.

The researchers are now conducting physiological studies of the bacterium.

They hope it will prove useful in the growing field of bioremediation, the process of using microbes to clean up harmful chemicals from the environment.

Tiedje said the bacterium "is ready to be used in a field test. We have, with our environmental engineering team members, implemented other field remediation tests and feel we can apply the same technologies for this microbe."

It is not yet clear whether TCA1 is a microbe that has adapted locally as a result of the pollutants in the Hudson and Kalamazoo Rivers or occurs independently of pollutants.

"At this stage, we don't know," said Tiedje. "But we do know that the Hudson River has been our best site to find dechlorinating microbes, which may mean that there has been some natural adaptation."

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