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New Explanation For Nature's Hardiest Life Form

Got food poisoning? The cause might be bacterial spores, en extremely hardy survival form of bacteria, a nightmare for health care and the food industry and an enigma for scientists. Spore-forming bacteria, present almost everywhere in our environment, can also cause serious infectious diseases, such as tetanus, anthrax, and botulism.

Now researchers from Lund University in Sweden and the U.S. have made a breakthrough in our understanding of the molecular characteristics of spores that in the long term may lead to new methods for sterilizing food and medical equipment. The findings are published in a recent issue of the American scientific journal PNAS.

In food production and health care, high temperatures are used to kill spores, which can survive boiling and normal disinfectants. But this is costly, and it depreciates the nutritional value and the taste of food. Why spores are so resistant to heat and how they can survive without nutrients has long puzzled researchers, but it has been suspected that what may be crucial are changes in the physical properties of spore water.

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