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Science File

New Benzene-Eating Bacteria Discovered

July 02, 2001|From Times staff and wire reports

Illinois researchers have found two strains of benzene-munching bacteria that one day may help clean up spilled gasoline and other petroleum products, according to a report in the June 28 edition of Nature magazine. Biologist John Coates and his colleagues at Southern Illinois University isolated the two strains, which can degrade benzene without oxygen, from sediment in the Potomac River outside Washington and a lake on the Southern Illinois campus.

Benzene is a cancer-causing chemical that is one of the most common contaminants in ground water. Bacteria found previously that eat benzene need oxygen.

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