Bacteria the newest tool in detecting environmental damage

May 24, 2015

Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory

By Science Daily

The reaction most people have when they hear the word bacteria is rarely a good one.

While it’s true that food- and water-borne bacteria cause untold illnesses and even death around the world, a team of researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory has found a way to use bacteria to help prevent some of the very symptoms most people associate with them.

Terry Hazen, the Governor’s Chair for Environmental Biotechnology, a joint UT-ORNL appointment, is working with a team of researchers who have developed a method of using bacteria to help test for the presence of a wide array of pollutants.

“Bacteria can be a great bio-sensor for the environment,” said Hazen, who holds appointments in environmental engineering, microbiology and earth and planetary sciences at UT. “Critically, even if you can’t see the contaminant, the bacteria will react a certain way if pollutants have been there in the past.”


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2 comments on “Bacteria the newest tool in detecting environmental damage

  • I have often found it distressing the way governments seem to equate measuring some pollutant with solving the problem. They seem most interested in avoiding over-cleaning. Ditto for measuring the effects of pesticides.



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  • While this is taking the diagnosis a step further, recognising pollution from the bacteria is nothing new.
    Stinking anaerobic rivers have a very different bacterial ecology to clean mountain streams.



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