Will modified bacteria replace artificial pesticides in the near future?

Is the end of the use of artificial pesticides in sight?

For some years now there has been great criticism of the use of artificial pesticides. Researchers have now found that bacteria could protect plants in the future, making artificial pesticides unnecessary.

Cardiff University scientists found in their current study that a group of bacteria produce a number of compounds that can fend off fungi, amoebas, and other types of bacteria that affect our crops. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Nature Microbiology".

Bacteria play a key role in a sustainable future

The researchers' new discovery will hopefully lead to food production becoming safer, more sustainable and free of toxins in the future. In their study, the experts focused on so-called Burkholderia bacteria. Bacteria like Burkholderia, which have developed naturally together with plants, play a key role for a sustainable future, the authors of the study explain.

Negative effects of artificial pesticides

Up until 1999, artificial pesticides were widespread, but the knowledge of the risks of severe cystic fibrosis in humans has led to criticism and rejection of the use of these agents. Since then, concerns about the effects of pesticide use have grown on an industrial scale. Pesticides have been blamed for the rapid decline in songbird numbers and frogs and fish becoming female because the pesticides disrupted their hormones when they were washed into rivers.

How were the burkholderia bacteria changed?

Leading environmental chemists recently warned that humanity is making new chemicals faster than it can predict their damage. The experts in the study have studied Burkholderia bacteria in cystic fibrosis for many years, and the research led to two new forms of antibiotics, cepacin A and B. The current study looked at whether cepacin is also effective in plant pests. Using genomic sequencing of the bacterial DNA, the researchers were able to identify the genes for Burkholderia for the production of cepacin. They then used techniques that were already used in the development of live vaccines to neutralize the bacterial infection options while maintaining the cepacin effect.

Mutated bacteria were harmless to animals

Burkholderia splits its genomic DNA into three fragments called replicons. Scientists removed the smallest of these three replicons to create a mutant strain of Burkholderia that showed excellent biopesticidal properties in germinating peas. Tests in mice, which were particularly susceptible to lung infections and in which regular infections of cystic fibrosis patients were mimicked, showed that the mutated strain did no harm to the animals. Together with scientists from the University of Warwick who worked on the discovery of cepacin, the group of experts is now trying to convert their mutated strain into a safe biopesticide that does not harm the environment. (as)

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