Scientists discover bacteria that can clean oil spill

June 12th, 2010 - 11:15 am ICT by IANS  

Los Angeles, June 12 (IANS) Scientists have discovered a bacteria that can help in cleaning up of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The “NY3″ bacteria has an “extraordinary capacity” to produce rhamnolipids that can help break down oil and then degrade some of its most serious toxic compounds.

The rhamnolipids, which is non-toxic to microbial flora, human beings and animals, can help degrade polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a carcinogenic and mutagenic compound released with the oil spill, Oregon State University(OSU) said in a statement.

The OSU is filing for a patent on the discovery made by researchers from OSU and two Chinese universities - the Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology and Nanjing Agricultural University, Xinhua reported.

“Some of the most toxic aspects of oil to fish, wildlife and humans are from PAHs,” said Xihou Yin, one of the researchers. “They can cause cancer, suppress immune system, cause reproductive problems and damage nervous system”.

According to experts, the rhamnolipids produced by NY3 strain appear to be stable in a wide range of temperature, pH and salinity conditions, and strain NY3 aggressively and efficiently degrades at least five PAH compounds of concern.

“The search for safe and efficient methods to remove environmental pollutants is a major impetus in the search for novel biosurfactant-producing and PAH-degrading microorganisms,” the researchers wrote.

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