Episode Summary

Engineered bacteria encapsulated in little beads sense chemicals from landmines and give off light!

Microbe of the episode

Microbe of the episode: Bifidobacterium pullorum

Jesse's takeaways

Landmines are a good way to take an enemy by surprise and do some damage. They're so good that some places in the world still aren't safe to go decades after a conflict, due to intact landmines hidden in the area. In order to detect them from a distance to aid in disarming efforts, we need something very good at detecting the faint odor they give off—something like bacteria!
In this study, bacteria are engineered to detect breakdown products of TNT in landmines and produce light—bioluminescence. These bacteria are encapsulated in polymer beads and are stable for months in the freezer, and could accurately pinpoint a landmine buried in sand for a year and a half.

Journal Paper

Shemer B, Shpigel E, Hazan C, Kabessa Y, Agranat AJ, Belkin S. Detection of buried explosives with immobilized bacterial bioreporters. Microb Biotechnol https://doi.org/10.1111/1751-7915.13683.

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Porous interior of bone