A recent study has revealed genetically modified bacteria with the amazing capacity to degrade plastics in saltwater conditions, which is a game-changing discovery for the fight against plastic pollution. This finding could fundamentally alter how we approach the rising issue of plastic trash in our oceans. Let's explore this fascinating study in more detail.

The Pollution Issue with Plastics

An international catastrophe, plastic pollution harms human health, wildlife, and marine ecosystems. Over 8 million tons of plastic are thought to reach the oceans annually, posing a serious danger to biodiversity and the environment. It is crucial to find novel and long-lasting solutions to this problem.

The Study's Findings

The most recent research offers a promising direction in the long process of scientific investigation into several approaches to reduce plastic pollution. A group of scientists did a study on genetically modified bacteria that can survive in saltwater settings. These microorganisms have a special enzyme that allows them to degrade common plastics like polyethylene terephthalate (PET). By 2022, 87.16 million metric tons of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are anticipated to have been produced worldwide. A notable portion of PET accumulates in the environment as plastic waste after a single use. PET is extremely hydrophobic and has a large molecular weight, making it difficult for wild-type microbes to biodegrade. The breakdown of plastic by genetically modified microbes has emerged as a possible solution for the plastic circular economy to address the worldwide issue of unchecked PET pollution. Numerous investigations have been carried out recently to increase the microbial ability for PET breakdown. In this post, we discuss the most recent findings on protein engineering and metabolic engineering of microbes for improved biodegradation of PET. The emphasis is on changes made to the hydrolase class enzymes PETase, MHETase, and cutinase, which in recent years have drawn increasing attention for their roles in the PET degradation processes. Based on the released degradation products of this polymer, the alterations presented in this work summarize the results so far on the hydrolysis of polyethylene terephthalate. These enzymes are produced by Humicola insolens (Fungus), Thermobifida fusca (Bacterium), leaf-branch compost and Ideonella sakaiensis (Bacterium).

Humicola insolens
Primary Findings

Genetically Modified Bacteria Using synthetic biology techniques, the researchers altered the genetic composition of bacteria to provide them the enzymes needed to successfully break down plastics.

Saltwater Adaptation One of the major developments is the ability of these genetically altered bacteria to flourish in saltwater conditions, which makes them ideal for reducing ocean plastic pollution.

PET Degradation PET, a common form of plastic used in bottles, containers, and textiles, exhibited a surprising ability to be broken down by the modified bacteria. Potentially decreasing and recycling plastic trash in marine ecosystems is provided by this approach.

Environmental Safety When introducing new species into ecosystems, it is essential to take environmental safety into account. The researchers stressed the significance of making sure that these genetically modified organisms (GMOs) do not pose unforeseen dangers to the environment.

Future Implications This research has important future implications. These genetically altered bacteria might provide a long-term and environmentally acceptable answer to the problem of plastic waste in our oceans if they can be used properly and successfully. Here are a few foreseeable future uses:

Engineered bacteria may be utilized to remove plastic debris from ocean surfaces, lessening the negative effects on marine life.

Recycling Alternatives This technique may result in more effective ways to recycle plastics, particularly PET, which is notoriously difficult to degrade.

Environmental Damage Mitigation By minimizing plastic pollution, we may contribute to the preservation of biodiversity, marine ecosystems, and a healthier environment for future generations.

In the fight against plastic pollution, the findings of genetically altered bacteria that can degrade plastics in saltwater represents a significant advance. This innovation gives hope for a cleaner and more sustainable future for our oceans and the entire planet, even though additional research and safety assessments are required before practical use. It's critical to keep in mind that individual initiatives to cut back on plastic use and support ethical waste management also play a crucial part in addressing this global issue as we continue to look for novel solutions.


Urbanek, A. K., Kosiorowska, K. E., & Mirończuk, A. M. (2021, November 30). Current Knowledge on Polyethylene Terephthalate Degradation by Genetically Modified Microorganisms. Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology; Frontiers Media. https://doi.org/10.3389/fbioe.2021.771133