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Is Bacteria Addicted to Caffeine?!

addicted to caffeine

Photo credit: iStockPhoto

How many times have you said you need your daily caffeine fix before you can comprehend what’s going on in the morning? Whether it’s coffee, energy drinks, or simply soda, caffeine can cause powerfully addictive behavior.  Now humans aren’t the only ones that can blame early morning sluggishness on lack of caffeine — bacteria are now addicted to caffeine, too.

“Some people may joke about living on caffeine, but today’s solution describes how scientists have genetically engineered E. coli bacteria to literally be addicted to caffeine.” -Katie Cottingham, ACS.org

Scientists have recently figured out how to turn E. coli (the bug that can cause food poisoning) into caffeine eating machines. Bacteria on espresso? Imagine the food poisoning that could cause.

The bacteria won’t really cause superhuman levels of food poisoning. In fact, they actually may be extremely helpful in just the opposite way – keeping us healthy. By creating bacteria that consume caffeine, scientists are able to create a antidote of sorts to the pollution and contamination caffeine causes.

I, for one, had no idea that caffeine is a source of pollution, but it is. Caffeine from all of our vices, whether it be coffee or an energy drink, ends up in our water creating pollution. Caffeine in our water supply can cause the death of good bacteria and cease the growth of plants. Even worse, the process of extracting coffee beans from coffee berries causes the releases of toxic chemicals that can lead to asthma and lung problems. These caffeine-eating superbugs can break down the caffeine into carbon dioxide and ammonia, therefore alleviating some of the pollution.

These high-strung bacteria are created by taking a strain of bacterium called Pseudomonas putida CBB5 that can live on caffeine and injecting it into the genes of E. coli, which is a well-studied, easy to grow bacteria. They’ve also used this new bacteria to decaffeinate beverages as well as measure the amount of caffeine they contain. The caffeine-addicted bug may even be able to be used in the creation of medication.

I certainly know the feeling of not being able to live without my caffeine fix. Now bacteria can join me in my strife.

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