Newly discovered type of bacteria, which use uranium instead of oxygen to breathe can be used to remove contamination caused by radioactive uranium, according to a study conducted by researchers from Rutgers University.
The bacterium interacts with uranium compounds in water and neutralize it. Thus, the uranium can not be dissolved in the ground water and therefore can not contaminate the drinking water.
It seems perhaps our nature has provided a way to deal with radioactive contamination caused by the nuclear industry.
Scientists have not identified exactly the way these bacteria have begun to use uranium to breathe, but suggest that they have acquired this ability from another type of bacteria. Scientists have expressed hope that the bacteria can cope with local ecological catastrophes caused by the nuclear industry worldwide.
The use of uranium in the process of breathing is a rarity in the microbial world. Most examples of bacteria that may breathe uranium most commonly use compounds based on metals – typically various forms of solid iron. Scientists have witnessed decreasing concentrations of uranium in groundwater in the presence of bacteria, which use iron compounds to breathe.