Monday, May 31, 2010

Bacteria aiding breakdown of Gulf oil spill

Naturally-occurring bacteria are able to break down the oil from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and their abundance is already increasing in samples of oil-laden water. Researchers suggest how this knowledge might help us: adding fertilizer to the water can encourage their growth, for example. Yet among the bacterial species that are feasting on the oil is the genus Vibrio, many of which (like the cholera agent) are human and animal pathogens, so we have to be aware and wary. The bacterial communities, like other organisms, will be 'reshuffled' by the spill, and their metabolism will also lower oxygen levels in the water as they break down the chemicals in the oil.

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