• Short Summary

    A research scientist working in the laboratories of the General Electric company in the United States is developing what he calls a "superbug" -- a microbe that can digest petroleum.

  • Description

    MV & CU Dr. Chakrabarty in laboratory (2 shots)

    CU Woman technicians FULL BACK TO MV

    CU Dr. Chakrabarty

    CU Flask being held, placed on desk, containing treated oil (SOF)

    MV/CU Woman technician with superbugs on slide (3 shots)

    CU PULL BACK TO MV Dr. Brooks

    MV Reporter and Dr. Brooks holding test tube ( SOUND) CUTAWAY TO Scenes of oil spillege MV DR. Brooks talking

    TRANSCRIPT: DR. CHAKRABARTY: "The level of oil that we start with--there's about 10 cc in this flask, and we just put superbug--but superbug hasn't acted yet. Now this flask shows you how much oil is left after the superbug has had a chance to work on it for seven days. And you can see, the bulk of the oil has gone."

    REPORTER ERNIE TETREMAULT: "Where did it go?"

    DR. CHAKRABARTY:"Well, it's converted to carbon dioxide and water, and of course as you can see there's large increase in the turbidity in the flask."

    REPORTER: "Smoky ....."

    DR. CHAKRABARTY: "Yes. Those are the bacteria, and what happened is the bacteria, superbug, grew at the expense of all the oil, and of course what you end up with is a mass of bacteria, which is 70 percent protein. So what you are really doing is you are getting rid of the bulk of the oil and you are getting back lots of protein.'

    REPORTER: "Lets's say you have an oil spill. How would you use this powder?"

    DR. BROOKS: "Conceptually we visualise that you would take an aeroplane, fly over the spilled area and spray the material from the aeroplane over the oil spill."

    REPORTER:"Then what happens? Superbug comes alive and starts to eat the oil? Right?"

    "Superbug come alive, begins to breed and multiply, producing more bacteria at the expense of the oil."

    Initials JH/DE/BB/2010 BB/1955

    Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved

    Background: A research scientist working in the laboratories of the General Electric company in the United States is developing what he calls a "superbug" -- a microbe that can digest petroleum. One way in which this could be particularly useful is in helping to clean up oil slicks.

    The scientist is Dr. Ananda Chakrabarty, a microbiologist who specialises in genetics. He says that microbes that could ingest hydrocarbons were already known; but there was none that could take in all the types of hydrocarbons that make up petroleum. He has combined four different strains of microbe into his superbug; and he has demonstrated it can swallow up oil much faster than any of the previous on film. A transcript follows:
    At sea, when they've eaten up the oil, the superbugs reproduce themselves and become part of the natural food chain. They are eaten by algae, which are eaten by the daphnia, a tiny shrimp-like creature. These in turn are eaten by fish--which may be caught and eaten by man.

    For use against an oil slick,the superbugs would be freeze-dried into a powder. Dr. Ron Brooks, manager of the Environmental unit at the General Electric Research and Development Centre, explains on film what would happen them. A transcript of his remarks follows:
    Dr. Brooks says "conceptually" because the superbug is still only in the laboratory stage. Extensive field tests will have to be carried out before it can be used on an actual oil spill. For instance, it is necessary to make sure that it will not produce any ecological snags.

    In its present state of development the superbug can digest about two thirds of the hydrocarbons found in an oil slick. Dr. chakrabarty is still working on producing a super-superbug that could deal with the rest.

    There are other possible uses for the microbe--one is to digest petroleum and convert it into a protein-rich microbial cell mass that could be used for animal feed. Another is to digest the waxy hydrocarbons that tend to block the flow of oil in an ageing oilfield, and so make it easier to pump out.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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