After Fungus, Its Time for Plastic Eating “Worms”
This would be one of those incredible feats of accidental discovery whereby an avid scientist’s beehive gets infested with wax worms and in her attempt to remove the pests places them in a plastic bag, only to find out that her prisoners had eaten their way through their transparent prison.
Polyethylenes or commonly known as plastics have become an enemy infamous the world over. This incredible hatred towards plastics lies in its indestructibility which goes on par with the dream of a human to live forever and in fact has become a major hurdle in the sustenance of not only the human race but also the entire planet. Plastic which is synthetic polymer is a derivative made from remains of ancient dinosaurs that is also being currently used to fuel our vehicles as well, in other words, fossil fuels and one of the hardest man-made object whose lifetime surpasses that of a several generation of normal human lifespan in terms of its biodegradability.
However, the incredible power of a plastic is all coming down crashing and thrashing, with discovery of plastic eating fungus recently and now a paper claims to have discovered the worm capable of munching down plastics in its breakfast, lunch and dinner. The scientists claim to have discovered the wax worms whose caterpillars are capable of eating out the plastic at an incredibly fast rate with estimates upto 92 mg per day which is markedly higher when compared to that of the recently reported microbial consortium. These plastic eating worms would be our valuable ally in the fight against the rising problem of plastic pollution worldwide.
Fig. Plastic Bag After Exposure to 100 wax worms for 12 hours.
Although the discovery is a long way away from using the worms in a landfill where there are different environmental parameters which would cause hindrance for the growth of worms, scientists are positive about the discovery of underlying molecular enzymes and pathways involved in the degradation of our sworn enemy “Plastics”.
The discovery was published in the journal “Cell” and can be found here “Polyethylene bio-degradation by caterpillars of the wax moth Galleria mellonella“.