A team of environmental engineers was recently successful in simplifying the identification of bacterial species that release a special form of arsenic leading to contamination of water supplies for million across the world. The team hails from the Utah State University College of Engineering. They developed a new kind of primer, tool utilized for DNA modification, that can simplify the identification process for bacteria living in groundwater and soil samples. The most interesting point about these bacteria species is that these are loaded with arsenate reductase genes. These genes allow the bacteria to change the naturally found arsenic into a more harmful version of this element.
The members of the team explain in their published paper that there are a number of bacteria that have the ability to reduce or transform arsenic V or arsenate into arsenite which is worse than the former. It is toxic to humans and much more mobile which means it can move through our surroundings easily and infiltrate our ground water sources. Dr. Babur Mirza, a researcher from the USU’s Utah Water Research Lab, explains, “Arsenic contamination is one of the biggest problems in drinking water all over the world. This new primer makes it easier for us to see which species of bacteria are present in a sample and whether they have the gene that we’re looking for.” He is also the lead author of the paper they published recently on this topic.
The new primer which is a short DNA strand aims the arsenate reductase gene that helps the researchers recognize what bacteria is have these genes. Without the help of the primer, the researchers first developed the bacteria in lab, then extracted the DNA and amplified the gene. Mirza adds, “Now we can simply add the primer into the reaction and we get quantifiable copies of the reductase genes. The copied genes show us which bacteria species are in the sample and tell us new information about the diversity of arsenate-reducing microorganisms.”
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