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MEI Online: Biotechnology: Latest News: October 16th 2008


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:: Arsenic-eating Bacteria Found

Scientists from the UK have discovered a new type of arsenic- eating bacteria that can survive at much lower temperatures than previously identified species.

The new bacteria was discovered at the Giant Mine in Yellow- knife in Canada’s arctic Northwest Territories, where it was found to be covering the walls of the mine, which were contaminated with arsenic.

“Until now, no bacteria have ever been isolated that can thrive in cold temperatures and deal with arsenic contamination", said Thomas Osborne from University College London. "The new bacteria functions at temperatures of 20°C to as low as 4°C", he added.

The Giant Mine contains more than 230,000t of arsenic trioxide dust, which is water soluble and contains approximately 60% arsenic. It is hoped that these new bacteria can be used as part of a new biotechnology to help remove arsenic from polluted mines at the colder, higher latitudes.

Similar bacteria are already known to exist in warmer climates and biotechnology is already being developed with the aim of cleaning contaminated water.




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