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Bacteria that decompose plastic began to appear all over the world by themselves.

Nowadays, wherever you look - everywhere surroundsplastic. It has accumulated so much that it has become a real problem for humanity. Indeed, it takes about 400 years for polymers to decompose naturally. In other words, plastic has been accumulating on Earth since it was first produced. As a result, a whole island of garbage has already formed in the Pacific Ocean, the main part of which is made up of various polymers. Birds and marine life are affected by it. In addition, it is harmful to human health, in particular, microplastics (crushed particles) increase cholesterol. Therefore, it has long become obvious that humanity can no longer accumulate plastic waste in such quantities, otherwise we will simply drown in it ourselves. But how to get rid of it? Scientists had high hopes for bacteria - it was supposed to breed and multiply such species that efficiently process polymers. However, it seems that bacteria have gotten ahead of scientists - they began to appear on their own, and, according to scientists at Chalmers Technical University, the number of bacteria that feed on plastic is increasing all over the world.

Scientists have discovered all over the world gray bacteria that can degrade polymers

Bacteria can break down polymers

That there are bacteria that are capable ofto recycle plastic, scientists have known for a long time. Moreover, you do not need to look far for them. They live in the stomachs of cows. The challenge for scientists is to make them even more effective. This will make it possible to process polymers with their help on an industrial scale.

Bacteria that recycle plastic are found in the stomachs of cows

Since scientists already know what they look likeenzymes capable of processing plastic in the stomachs of cows, they decided to look for similar enzymes in other bacteria by comparing their DNA. It should be noted that the scientists were not looking for the bacteria themselves, but specifically for their DNA, which they leave everywhere when bacterial cells die. DNA is a stable molecule, therefore it is kept in air, earth and water for a long time after the death of the bacterium itself. It is not difficult to distinguish the DNA of bacteria from molecules of other organisms, the researchers say, since they have their own characteristic features.

Scientists have conducted extensive research - they arethe whole world collected bacterial DNA and looked for signs of the presence of enzymes. As a result, they found more than 30 thousand bacterial DNA, which is potentially capable of processing ten types of plastics. True, it should be borne in mind that while we are talking only about the potential, since the bacteria themselves, as I said above, the researchers have not yet studied. Conclusions made only on the basis of DNA. Details of the study are published in mBio.

There are believed to be 30,000 species of bacteria that recycle plastic.

Prospects for bacteria that decompose plastic

Although there is direct evidencethe existence of bacteria that decompose plastic is not yet available, the figure itself is very impressive. Even if not all of the DNA belongs to bacteria that actually process polymers, most likely some of them are still capable of it. Moreover, there is indirect evidence for this - most of such DNA was found in those places where there was a large accumulation of plastic.

Moreover, the “antiplastic” enzyme is oftencorresponded to the type of plastic that is present in a particular environment of their habitat. From this we can conclude that bacteria adapt to eat those substances that they have in abundance, which is logical. Scientists believe that in the end they will be able to find among the thousands of bacteria those that can cope better than others in the targeted cleaning of plastic.

Plastic waste in the future may start to disappear on its own

Also, the authors of the work do not exclude another option.development of events. Perhaps bacteria, as a result of natural selection, will themselves learn to quickly break down plastic. In this case, various debris such as plastic bottles, plastic bags, etc. will begin to disappear by themselves. In other words, nature will find a way to cleanse itself of debris without human intervention.

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This option, although it looks a littlefantastic, may be the most likely. Perhaps it is this process that scientists are now observing when they record many traces of bacteria that decompose plastic in areas where there is a large amount of debris. Finally, let me remind you that the accumulation of plastic leads to the appearance of other bacteria that cannot be called useful. In particular, a recent study showed the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The latter pose a direct danger to people, as I talked about earlier.