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New champions among corrosive microbes

10:30am, March 8, 2004

In another example of the deep sea's largely unexplored biodiversity, scientists have discovered two new strains of bacteria that corrode iron with unprecedented efficiency.

In marine environments that are oxygen poor, certain bacteria are known to eat away at iron by converting sulfate in ocean water into the corrosive chemical hydrogen sulfide. To search for other microorganisms adept at causing corrosion, Friedrich Widdel at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany, and his colleagues collected sediments from the North Sea and isolated several strains of bacteria from the material. The researchers then cultured the bacterial strains separately inside sealed glass tubes containing iron granules.

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