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The Secret Benefits of Germs

We tend to believe -- and quite rightly so -- that germs are a detriment to our economy. The billions of dollars spent each year to treat infections can overburden the budget of any healthcare institution and the pocketbooks of anyone without appropriate health insurance.

But pathogens only make up a fraction of the diversity of germs on Earth and a number of environmental germs have been examined for their financial and environmental benefit. For the most part, these germs are unknown, kept away from the science spotlight, and gaining little to no appreciation for the work that they do.

That changed last week when the laboratory of Dr. Nathan Magarvey at McMaster University in Hamilton found that a particular bacterium known as Delftia acidovorans (meaning acid devouring bacteria from the city of Delft in Holland where it was discovered) not only could be found growing in gold deposits, but was actually mining the gold and using it as a place to reside.

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