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Researchers from the Institute of Integrative Systems Biology (I2SysBio), a joint centre of the University of Valencia and the CSIC, have examined the bacteria from used chewing gums from five different states. The research, just published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that the bacterial load of gum changes in a matter of weeks and that oral bacteria persist for a surprisingly long period when gum is on the ground. This research can be applied in forensic medicine or to the control of contagious diseases.
The study focuses on the supply of bacteria based on the depth at which they are found (surface, intermediate and lower levels of waste), the biodegradation capacity of chewing gum ingredients and parasitic successions after three months of outdoor exposure. The bacterial diversity of samples are examined through Massive DNA Sequencing (NGS).
For this study the group collected a total of ten samples, two in Spain, France and Singapore, and one in Greece and Turkey. All were collected from the ground with a sterilized scraper and transported to the laboratory, where they were kept at a temperature of -80ºC prior analysis.
Chewing gum could be a vector of bacterial diseases quite long after being thrown to the ground. We’ve found bacteria that can be used to clean the chewing gums – because they eat them!” The expert adds that “chewing gum has a bacterial load that evolves from an oral microbiome to an environmental microbiome in a matter of weeks. Oral bacteria persist surprisingly long once the gum is on the ground. In addition, many of the bacteria we have isolated from older gum have the potential to bioremediate the gum itself, i.e. degrade it”.-Manuel Porcar, Researcher
The study team in I2SysBio points out that this sort of long-lasting waste has been used for human genetic analysis in criminology and archaeology and points out that their findings have implications for a wide assortment of areas, including forensic medicine, contagious disease control or the previously mentioned bioremediation of chewing gum waste.
The article signed by Leila Satari, Alba Guillén, Àngela Vidal-Verdú and Manuel Porcar describes a complete characterization on the bacterial content of chewing gum using culture-dependent and independent methods, unlike other research that focuses on enhancing when cleaning gums thrown to the floor, making them less glue, water-soluble or degradable. In addition, the team stresses that this adhesive substance”may contain a significant portion of the oral microbiota, toxins and some pathogens such as Streptococcus spp. And Actinomyces spp., that remain trapped in sticky residue and in which their survival over time has received very little attention”.
Note : The represented image credit : © Ezume Images / Adobe Stock
Satari, L., et al. (2020) The wasted chewing gum bacteriome. Scientific Reports. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-73913-4.