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The Green Life: University of Minnesota vs. the Superbug

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November 24, 2010

University of Minnesota vs. the Superbug

super bug Science can try, but it can't kill it. In fact, modern science is the reason it's here. Generations of antibiotic use have significantly fought it back, but in the end, we only made it more aware of our defenses and how to infiltrate them. It assaults our coastlines, is responsible for MRSA, and is trying to unravel what many consider to be the 20th century's most important invention.

It's a superbug. And it's way deadlier than the arcade classic.

The super bacteria is a strain with built-up resistance to antibiotics, thanks to overuse. While easily spread amongst humans, farm animals are commonly infected as well due to their frequent antibiotic injections. It can also get comfy in common wastewater, which, when funneled into a water treatment plant, is made safer for use in homes. Sort of.

While it is true that heating the wastewater kills the bacteria, the facilities just aren't cranking it up  enough, reports University of Minnesota microbioliogist Timothy LaPara. He recently discovered that a more suitable temperature for obliterating our enemy is 130 degrees Fahrenheit, rather than the lukewarm 98 degrees currently used in water-treatment plants.

The superbug threat is spreading, but LaPara and other UM researchers are gearing up for a fight. $400,000 from the National Science Foundation has assured that LaPara will be knee-deep in sewage for years to come, protecting all of us from its ungodly advance.

--Justin Klugh

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