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Kaohsiung high-school student discovers new bacterium species

Kaohsiung high-school student discovers new bacterium species

A new bacterium endemic to Taiwan has been identified by a high school student in Kaohsiung as capable of decomposing dioxin, a group of highly persistent chemicals hazardous to humans and animals, academic sources said yesterday.
The microbial species, identified as pseudomonas mendocina NSYSU, was first spotted by Li Ya-ting, a sophomore at Affiliated Senior High School of National Kaohsiung Normal University, during a laboratory experiment on dioxin-purging substances a year ago, the sources reported.
Li said she decided to find a solution for dioxin-related pollution after an introductory lesson in her freshman year focusing on the case of the Tainan City-based Anshun plant run by the China Petrochemical Development Corp, which emitted large amounts of dioxin into the environment during its 40 years of operation since 1942.
Even after millions of dollars were spent on the site and its surroundings, the dioxin pollutants still exist in the soil at high concentration, leaving the land unusable both in terms of housing and agriculture, according to microbiologists at National Sun Yat-sen University and Cheng Shiu University, who helped Li's work in its later stages.
In the beginning, Li said, she used earthworms as the dioxin- digesting agent, but the worms died quickly in the highly toxic environment. However, Li said she was surprised to find that the worm's body decomposed after a week, indicating there could be bacteria in the contaminated earth.
Seeking assistance from NSYSU and CSU, Li redirected her study to dioxin-resistant microbes that could also decompose the substance, she said, adding that the result was the discovery of pseudomonas mendocina NSYSU, a sub-strain existing only in Taiwan and named after the university.
In the laboratory, the bacterium is capable of digesting 80 percent of a given dioxin in two months, according to the researchers. Meanwhile, the microbe is also effective in breaking down hazardous substances such as PBDD, PBDE, PCB and PAH.
"The bacterium has great potential in field applications, " commented Chang-Chien Guo-pin, director of the CSU's Super Micro Mass Research and Technology Center who participated in the project.
"It exists and evolves in the local environment, therefore it may not disturb the ecology. The cost and time for cultivation is minimal, but it provides a solution with short decomposition time and high dissolution efficiency. And the purging process produces no hazardous byproducts, eliminating the possibility of subsequent pollution," he said.


Updated : 2021-03-04 14:53 GMT+08:00