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Safe Bacterium Found to Kill Zebra Mussels

October 2, 2008

U.S. scientists say they’ve created an environmentally safe bacterial toxin to control invasive zebra and quagga mussels.

The new bio-pesticide was derived from a common soil bacterium by researchers at the New York State Museum Field Research Laboratory in Cambridge, N.Y. Scientists in the U.S. Department of Energy-funded study said that when ingested in large quantities, the bacterium is lethal to zebra and quagga mussels but harmless to non-target organisms, including native freshwater mollusks.

Officials said the bio-pesticide achieved a 98 percent kill rate of zebra and quagga mussels in water systems at a New York power plant. Officials said the addition of the bacterium to the plant’s water supply showed no effects on humans.

The two non-native species have found their way into the waterways of 25 states during the past two decades, fouling the aquatic environment.

The project was funded by Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy and managed by the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

The New York State Museum’s laboratory and Marrone Organic Innovations Inc., a private laboratory in Davis, Calif., will share a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to improve the bio-pesticide for an even higher mussel kill rate.




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