Superbug can withstand radiation and starvation

November 26, 1999

The genetic secrets of the world's toughest bug have been revealed by a team of American scientists, writes Steve Farrar.

The bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans can survive almost any kind of DNA damage from bursts of radiation to basting in hydrogen peroxide, making it a leading candidate as biological clean-up agent for contaminated sites.

Scientists have been able to sequence its genome and pick out the genetic components that give it such resilience by repairing DNA and exporting damaged pieces of genetic material.

They have also found those genes that help it keep going when faced with starvation and desiccation.

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