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Japanese scientists discover a PET-eating bacteria

A new paper in the journal Science relates how a team of research scientists from Japan has isolated a bacterium capable of using PET as its major energy and carbon source.

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According to the journal Science, a Japanese research team from Kyoto Institute of Technology and Keio University has discovered a species of bacterium that can break down and metabolize PET plastic. Reads the discovery abstract, “By screening natural microbial communities exposed to PET in the environment, we isolated a novel bacteriu, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, that is able to use PET as its major energy and carbon source.”

“When grown on PET, this strain produces two enzymes capable of hydrolyzing PET and the reaction intermediate, mono(2-hydroxyethyl) terephthalic acid. Both enzymes are required to enzymatically convert PET efficiently into its two environmentally benign monomers, terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol.”

According to Science, the authors of the paper, Yoshida et al., believe the biodegradation of plastics by specialized bacteria could be a viable bioremediation strategy for the “release of countless tons of plastics into the environment.”

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