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Native bacteria to mop up toxic pollution?

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Researchers from the CRC CARE (Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment) have identified a group of native Australian soil bacteria that can destroy soil-contaminating organic volatile compounds, known collectively as BTEX, which have been linked to cancer, nerve damage and other diseases.

BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene and xylene) contamination is caused by fuel leakages around former service-station sites, fuel farms, garages, workshops, gasometers, oil spills, dry cleaners and factories. While BTEX-tolerant bacteria have been identified elsewhere, these are the first to show specificity for these organic compounds. The microorganisms devour carbon in the molecules, leaving a residue of carbon dioxide and water.

The CRC CARE team, headed by Professor Megha Mallavarapu, is currently isolating and sequencing the genes in the bacteria associated with BTEX degradation with the aim of identifying a more robust suite of organisms that can degrade oil spills and other toxic pollutants.

www.crccare.com
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Publication:Ecos
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Oct 1, 2008
Words:151
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