Scientists find a new innovative method to handle pollution

Scientists find a new innovative method to handle pollution as premature mortality and sickness are the most common outcomes of environmental pollution. More than 11 million people die prematurely every year as a result of environmental pollution. AIDS, TB, and malaria all together cause more fatalities than this.

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A global health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic serves as a reminder. That is, a reminder that the environment and health are inextricably linked. It also points out that we must address these links in a methodical manner. The health effects of the pandemic are being made worse by air pollution, which increases the risk of getting sick.

Plastic garbage is so pervasive that it has been found in our food, our air, and even our blood. People’s use and disposal of plastic has hurt environments all over the world, including almost every part of the seas. This is because plastic can take hundreds of years or even thousands of years to break down.

Styrofoam is made from polystyrene, a common plastic that will only become worse as time goes on. This garbage must be recycled and up-cycled to reduce its impact on our environment. The super worms have arrived.

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Scientists find a new innovative method to handle pollution

In a study published in Microbial Genomics on Thursday, researchers have shown that microbes in the guts of Zophobas morio, a darkling beetle species known as “superworms,” allow the larvae to “survive on polystyrene feed.”

This finding “will provide a basis for future investigations into microbial upcycling of plastic waste,” according to the study.

Scientists from the Australian Center for Ecogenomics (ACE) at the University of Queensland and the study’s principal author, Chris Rinke said that insect larvae have a strong track record of destroying and devouring plastics.

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The researchers thought that larger superworms (up to 5.5 cm long) might be even better at the job. This is because waxworms and regular mealworms have been shown to be able to eat plastic.

He said polystyrene is a favorite food for superworms. “So, when we began our studies, we didn’t know whether superworms could thrive on plastic, but we had great expectations.”

One of the groups of super worms ate polystyrene, another ate bran, and the third went on a rigorous fast. This is when Rinke and his colleagues separated 171 superworms into three groups. The sad part of the study is that the researchers saw cannibalism happening among the fasting superworms.

This made them change the way they did the experiment. This is so they could keep the hungry control group animals apart while keeping the feeding trial animals together. Many genetic pathways connected with worms’ plastic-eating abilities were discovered. This is done through the use of gene sequencing as well as extensive observation of the worms during the experiment.

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Worms’ plastic-eating

As reported in the article, an insect microbiome connected to plastic underwent its first metagenomic investigation as a consequence of this experiment. More than 95% of each group of superworms were able to survive their three-week meals.

But the polystyrene-fed larvae also gained weight and were more active than the starving worms. This shows that they were able to get some nutrition from the trash. However, it came at a cost to their health.

According to Rinke’s findings, “the superworms raised on polystyrene acquired only a tiny amount of weight and the variety of their gut microbiomes was reduced.” Our research shows that the worms’ polystyrene diet is bad for their health. This is because it contains microorganisms that make them sick. “Adding polystyrene to food waste or agricultural bioproducts may increase the worms’ health.”

However, although superworms may help reduce plastic waste, Rinke pointed out that the emphasis should really be on the gut microorganisms of larvae, because their digestive secrets might be artificially imitated and harnessed on huge scales for use in bioreactors and other plastic-processing facilities.

For now, Rinke says, “we have an inventory and aim to further explore poly-styrene-degradation-capability-enabled microorganisms in the superworm intestine.” Enzyme engineering will be used to further increase enzyme efficiency, which will be studied in more depth over the next several years.

The aim is to remove superworms from the equation, and instead physically shred plastic trash, followed by microbial breakdown in bioreactors and subsequent microbial generation of higher value chemicals such as bioplastic, “he said.

This upcycling strategy should encourage people to recycle plastic because it will be more cost-effective to do so.

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Scientists find a new innovative method to handle pollution

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