Bacteria Engineered to Destroy Pollutants

Scientists have engineered bacteria to seek out and destroy a chemical that pollutes drinking water. Rebecca Williams has more.

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OPEN: Scientists have engineered bacteria to seek out and destroy a chemical that pollutes drinking water. Rebecca Williams has more.

Atrazine is a pesticide used on corn, sorghum and sugar cane. It's one of the most common chemicals polluting water supplies in the US.

Justin Gallivan is a chemist at Emory University. His team genetically engineered a type of E. coli bacteria. They programmed it to seek out atrazine in a petri dish and destroy it.

He says right now, this engineered bacteria is too weak to survive in the wild.

"It requires quite a bit of care and feeding, as you might say, to survive even in a petri dish. So if it were placed in a more harsh environment, it is extremely likely that these types of organisms would not survive."

He says using this kind of genetically engineered bacteria to clean up pollution is still a long way off.

For The Environment Report, I'm Rebecca Williams.