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Taiwanese scientists discover plastic-degrading bacteria

04/22/2024 09:51 PM
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National Taiwan Ocean University Assistant Professor Ho Ying-ning (center, sitting) and his research team. Photo courtesy of National Taiwan Ocean University April 22, 2024
National Taiwan Ocean University Assistant Professor Ho Ying-ning (center, sitting) and his research team. Photo courtesy of National Taiwan Ocean University April 22, 2024

Taipei, April 22 (CNA) A Taiwanese research team from National Taiwan Ocean University's (NTOU) Institute of Marine Biology has discovered a bacterial strain with the potential to degrade plastic, according to a news statement released by the university on Monday.

The team, led by Ho Ying-ning (何攖寧), an assistant professor at the institute, recently found a marine bacterial strain that they named Oceanimonas pelagia NTOU-MSR1, isolated from marine sediment on Taiwan's northern coast, said the statement.

The bacterium, possibly a new member of the Oceanimonas genus, was able to biodegrade 10-15 percent of polyethylene (PE), which is one of the most commonly used plastics worldwide, in 120 days.

The strain was also able to produce a biosurfactant that emulsified 40 percent of diesel fuel within two weeks, the statement said.

Moreover, genomic analysis of the bacteria showed genes associated with the biosynthesis of polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), a substance considered a biodegradable plastic alternative, according to the statement.

Around 8-12 million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the ocean every year. After breaking down into microplastics, it not only enters the food chain but also creates habitats for microorganisms to multiply, posing potential health risks for humans, said the statement.

Ho noted that the strain's potential for environment restoration and commercial use will be explored in the future, with plans to develop applications of the bacteria's unique biochemical characteristics for environment protection.

The findings were published in "Antonie van Leeuwenhoek," an international scientific journal that covers microbiology in March 2024.

(By Wang Chao-yu and Wu Kuan-hsien)

Enditem/AW

Courtesy of National Taiwan Ocean University April 22, 2024
Courtesy of National Taiwan Ocean University April 22, 2024
Courtesy of National Taiwan Ocean University April 22, 2024
Courtesy of National Taiwan Ocean University April 22, 2024
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