E. coli bac­te­ria be­come mod­ern minesweep­ers

Nor­mally, they are as­so­ci­ated with food poi­son­ing, but E. coli bac­te­ria can also act as clever de­tec­tives. By means of gene ma­nip­u­la­tion, sci­en­tists have trained them to find land mines.

Science Illustrated - - TECHNOLOGY BACTERIA -

More than 100 mil­lion land mines are spread across the world, mak­ing up a safety haz­ard to peo­ple in for­mer con­flict re­gions. So, sci­en­tists have ge­net­i­cally ma­nip­u­lated E. coli bac­te­ria to shed light on the hid­den death traps. The land mine ex­plo­sive of TNT gives off vapours that ac­cu­mu­late in the soil. The bac­te­ria are equipped with genes that pro­duce lu­mi­nous pro­teins when in con­tact with TNT and its pri­mary break-down prod­uct of DNT. By spread­ing balls of an or­ganic alga ma­te­rial full of bac­te­ria in land mine zones, a scan sys­tem can see light from balls lo­cated near mines.

The sci­en­tists be­hind the GM ex­plo­sives de­tec­tives are still work­ing on re­fin­ing the method. They would like to find other types of ex­plo­sives and ex­pand the reach of the laser sys­tem by con­nect­ing it to a drone, so large ar­eas can quickly be scanned. More­over, sci­en­tists aim to re­duce the life span of the bac­te­ria, so they die quickly af­ter the mis­sion is com­pleted to pre­vent that GM or­gan­isms set­tle per­ma­nently in na­ture.

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