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Moos, microbes, and methane

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5:53pm, June 5, 2002

From Salt Lake City, Utah, at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology

Consider it an attack on gas. Researchers are taking on the methane-making microbes that thrive in cow stomachs.

About 17 percent of the methane in the atmosphere comes from cows and other ruminants as they digest food, according to Razvan Dumitru of the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and his colleagues. The animals produce this greenhouse gas because some of their stomach microbes metabolize carbon dioxide into methane, which the animals vent to the atmosphere.

Dumitru's group has identified inhibitors of an enzyme used by the microbes. The compounds stop the growth of the microbes in lab dishes and in fluid taken from a cow's stomach. The compounds leave unscathed other stomach microbes that are necessary for digestion.

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