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Scientists Discover How Bacteria Changes Ions Into Gold

NGS Picture ID:587732


Bacteria with the ability to change ions into solid gold?  This scenario may sound like a biochemist’s version of a fairy tale, but it’s real and scientists at McMaster University have just described how the process works in a recent article published online in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.  

The bacteria is called Delftia acidovorans, and it turns out that its King Midas-like conversion is part of a self-defense mechanism. Gold ions dissolved in water are toxic, so when the bacteria senses them it releases a protein called delftibactin A.  The protein acts as a shield for the bacteria and changes the poisonous ions into harmless particles that accumulate outside the cells.

Although the amount of gold that Delftia acidovorans release is tiny (the particles are 25-50 nanometers across) it’s possible that the bacteria or the protein could someday be used to dissolve gold from water or to help people identify streams and rivers carrying the mineral.

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  1. Keith Hedman
    August 21, 2013, 2:17 pm

    This is an awesome technology. Since these bacteria have an acid metabolism, it makes since that they would metabolically isolate Gold Chloride and excrete it.

  2. dan unger
    wells,BC , Canada
    June 28, 2013, 1:34 am

    I have studied microscopy as relating to placer Au. The bacteria are in fact a trigger mechanism/catalyst. Looking for the enzymes responsible ?

  3. poll
    February 12, 2013, 1:51 pm

    looks like dump

  4. poll
    February 12, 2013, 1:50 pm

    I think its good to find this out but it also works reverse gem and gold selling businesses lose money but its good for public more accessories and less store robberies

  5. Ryan Stoughton
    February 12, 2013, 7:48 am

    This story is an embarrassment. The worst of sensationalisy science journalism.

  6. MJStephens
    February 11, 2013, 11:30 pm

    This is what happens when you ask a scientific illiterate to write an article on a scientific finding. Very scary.

    I’m sure the actual McMaster scientists aren’t thrilled that their research is being so badly mangled. This is just another example of science not being effectively communicated to the public.

  7. Rick Crammond
    February 11, 2013, 7:35 pm

    Why has this bogus article, with misleading title and misleading picture, and poor grammar besides, been up for several days…which is longer than any other news ??

  8. Ross
    February 11, 2013, 6:29 pm

    picture is deliberatly misleading. That is placer gold. Gold from this new source is so small they don’t even have a picture of it.

    typical BS to discredit gold value and discourage buyers

  9. kathiroly
    February 11, 2013, 9:29 am

    I can make gold from onions and with some magical spells.

  10. Sue Dohnem
    Bagdad FL
    February 11, 2013, 2:40 am

    I have this bacteria in my gut. I poop gold. Kind of like the Midas Touch in reverse.

  11. Bhushit Joshipura
    February 11, 2013, 2:13 am

    If such bacteria genetically engineered to sense other ions and “crossbred” with the direction sensing bacteria, we can reduce cost of mining materials. Here is how.
    Say we design bacteria to sense iron or Thorium and genetically program them to throw the neutralized atoms in magnetic South.
    The bacteria will march forward in the mineral belt and keep depositing pure metal on the south end of the belt.
    We no longer need to mine. We can just dig an eco-friendly trench and take all the pure metal!

  12. Reza
    February 10, 2013, 7:14 pm

    Wow title is kind of misleading…

  13. Tom Easly
    February 10, 2013, 6:48 pm

    For too long these egghead scientists have sucked our nation dry with their free money handouts from our tax dollars. They steal money from our families so that we have no milk and our wives breasts run dry and cannot feed our babies. Now at last these scientists can milk these germs and get their gold and pay for their own crazy experiments to invent zombies and human pinball machines. I applaud these germ breeding scuentists and am glad they have finally come up with a way to make money without sucking on the teats of the American workers and mothers.

  14. NateGreene
    United States
    February 10, 2013, 4:45 pm

    What a profitable way to clean up poluted water in gold mines long closed. Imagine being able to reclaim these poluted mines with only bacteria. Interesting…..

  15. Axel
    February 10, 2013, 2:07 pm

    But please… It’s one bacterium, many bacteria. How can I trust the science if there isn’t even simple grammar?

  16. terri
    February 10, 2013, 1:02 pm

    I have to wonder how scientist can manipulate the environment to come up with more gold ions. Until they can do that it would be difficult to create gold purposely. Just a thought.

  17. Tim
    February 10, 2013, 12:58 pm

    Get ready for a crash in gold prices!! yay! Marc Faber didn’t see THIS one coming!

    February 10, 2013, 11:11 am

    MAYBE now FEDERAL RESERVE CAN PAY GERMANY BACK 1500 TONS of Germany gold , that been stored in new-york for 60 years , THAT IS NO LONGER THERE , it been used for derivative SCAM

  19. scott
    February 9, 2013, 7:54 pm

    They can spend all this energy to find out how to make gold and we cant after all these years ( cure CANCER ) WOW ,WAY TO GO ,GOOD ON YA !

  20. ted hitsman
    February 9, 2013, 11:05 am

    There’s a disease going around “badheadlinitis”. Anyone writing headlines as bad as these should be quarantined for about, say 40 years.

  21. Ali
    February 9, 2013, 10:40 am

    The Economy ate the Editors!. (idea for NewsWatch title)

  22. Ryan
    February 9, 2013, 8:59 am

    Wow, you know times are tough when National Geographic uses tabloid-style misleading titles to get article views.

  23. Chris
    February 9, 2013, 12:24 am

    “…dissolve gold from water…” ?????
    What the heck would that mean? National Geographic is turning into the Sun? or FOX news?

  24. Gordon
    Gatineau, Quebec
    February 8, 2013, 11:00 pm

    If Stephen Hawking is correct in saying that aliens would come to earth for our resources, such as gold, being as rare in the universe as it is on earth, then we need not be concerned about enslavement. We can simply hand over the gold harvesting bacteria and we will all be spared. Humans don’t have to be the gold harvesters anymore. True there will still be bio-enrichment/harvesting of metals and isotopes, but humans won’t need to be involved directly.

  25. Mask of Sheldon
    February 8, 2013, 4:53 pm

    If you eat that bacteria, will you be pooping Au?

  26. Vladimir Naumov
    February 8, 2013, 9:45 am

    This is normal. It has long been known in science and is widely used in gold mining. Mainly bacteria to decompose ispozuyut gold sulfides. Also often in natural objects bacteria involved in the formation of gold deposits. We have established the concentration and the surface of gold particles, consisting of bacteria, diatom algae, fungi and
    and other microorganisms.

  27. Drew
    February 7, 2013, 10:55 pm

    There is an awful lot of gold in our oceans. This opens the door.

  28. Bryan
    February 7, 2013, 4:13 pm

    Do you know how difficult it is to dissolve gold in the first place? 3:1 concentrated HCl/HNO3 is how we do it. These bacteria more likely developed the process to defend against common metal poisoning. Ionic gold would not be found in high enough concentrations in nature to make this an effective geologist tool. Pretty typical hype from the “Nature” line of journals.

    The image is clearly placer gold and has nothing to do with the article.

  29. Cam
    February 7, 2013, 3:28 pm

    The title was a little deceiving, but lets face it, most people wouldn’t have read this if it wasn’t. This would be super useful if we could place it on a litmus style paper to test for gold in streams.

  30. Greggore
    February 7, 2013, 2:40 pm

    I think this is pretty neat. It shows how bio-tools can help develop\convert elements. I wonder how long it will be before they can make enough gold to cover our wacky economy to bring us back to the gold standard?

    February 7, 2013, 10:52 am

    Misleading title.

  32. Donny B.
    Torotno, Ontario, Canada
    February 7, 2013, 9:09 am

    Bacteria changes ions into gold.
    More accurately, bacteria precipitates gold-dissolved-in-water into solidified gold.
    Would be a useful addition at gold mines to have a filter to run process water through prior to disposal. But alchemy is still not possible, sorry.

  33. colzz
    Perth, WA
    February 7, 2013, 7:50 am

    Could they be used to build circuits?

  34. Emmanuel
    February 7, 2013, 7:35 am


  35. Lin Geary
    February 7, 2013, 6:30 am

    Just wondering if your headline might have been more accurate if it conveyed the idea that the bacteria “turned gold into gold”. What McMaster has come ups with isn’t alchemy; it’s just really good science, which McMaster does brilliantly. The news media often does alchemy, turning dross into maybe gold. Please remember who is doing the alchemy.

  36. Jonny
    February 6, 2013, 7:09 pm

    Yay! now scientists don’t have to apply for funding anymore!!

  37. Dave
    February 6, 2013, 6:36 pm

    I think you mean precipitate or separate gold from water – not dissolve. The gold is already dissolved in the water.