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‘Nanobot’ viruses tag and round up bacteria in food and water

Tweaking DNA and adding magnetic nanoparticles creates a new tool to test for contaminants

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11:36am, March 27, 2018
virus illustration

BACTERIA-HUNTING VIRUSES  Viruses (one illustrated, center) can be engineered to carry magnetic nanoparticles and modified DNA, transforming them into nanobots that detect bacteria in water or food.

NEW ORLEANS — Viruses engineered into “nanobots” can find and separate bacteria from food or water.

These viruses, called bacteriophages or just phages, naturally latch onto bacteria to infect them (SN: 7/12/03, p. 26). By tweaking the phages’ DNA and decking them out with magnetic nanoparticles, researchers created a tool that could both corral bacteria and force them to reveal themselves. These modifications can boost the sensitivity and speed of rooting out bacteria in tainted food or water, the researchers reported March 20 at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

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