Genetically modified bacteria might hold the key to reversing climate change by reversing environmental contamination by pollutants. Such bacteria might not only be able to take care of the 300 million tons of plastic produced around the world but even heavy metals such as cadmium, which is used in nuclear reactors. 

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We are producing pollutants at an alarming rate — according to scientists at Ben Gurion University, Israel, the weight of plastic containers in the ocean might be equal to the weight of fish in it by 2050. This is why some genetically modified bacteria might be the out-of-the-box solution for pollution, which in turn causes climate change by contaminating the environment and might even threaten the survival of humankind.

Here are four different bacteria, which might help reverse pollution by eating pollution and degrading pollutants:

Air pollution-eating and fuel generating bacteria: Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, have genetically reprogrammed bacteria to consume carbon dioxide from environment and produce sugars needed to build its body mass. The modified form of the bacterium E.Coli can be modified to produce the enzyme RuBisCo. The study found that the bacteria can be trained to consume CO2 and use it to create its body mass, including all the sugars needed to stay alive.

Pollution-eating, electricity generating bacteria: Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina have discovered bacteria called the Desulfitobacteria, which can break down environmental pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls and chemical solvents and convert them into electricity.

"These bacteria are very diverse in their metabolic capabilities, including the food that they can consume. That means that these bacteria can convert a large number of different food sources into electricity. The technology could be used to assist in the reclamation of wastewaters, thereby resulting in the removal of waste and generation of electricity," Charles Milliken, one of the researchers associated with the study, explained.

The bacteria can handle conditions such as extreme heat and radiation and even lack of water.

Plastic-eating bacteria: Researchers at the Ben Gurion Institute of Science, Israel, have developed bacteria called Pseudomonas putida, which can be genetically modified to eat polyethylene-terephthalate (PET), the most common kind of plastic polluting the oceans and land.

Plastic is one of the biggest pollutants and does not degrade easily — an average bottle of mineral water takes half a millennium to decompose. The bacterium uses plastic as a carbon source and breaks it down using engineered enzymes.

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Heavy metal-eating bacteria: Heavy metals such as cadmium are hard to break down using natural resources. But there might be a simple solution to the problem — genetically modified yeast. It uses a cell membrane called ‘anchor’ along with peptides, which bind with heavy metals and cleans up metal ions without harmful aftereffects.