This year, our team is working on biofuel production using E. coli. In the US, most biofuel production comes from either corn or sugar cane. Both of these crops require arable land and pull resources from the food supply. Algae is another option, but it requires land area for growing ponds. E. coli, on the other hand, can be grown in fermenters in a factory and do not affect the food supply or remove arable land from other productive use. E. coli naturally produces several alcohols that can be used as biofuels, including isopropanol, isobutanol, ethanol, and sec-butanol. Unfortunately, E. coli also has pathways that break down these alcohols when the concentration increases to prevent toxic levels from occurring. The combination of increasing the natural resistance to these alcohols as well as upregulating the production of one or more of these alcohols could make this production methods commercially viable.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.
E. coli consists of a diverse group of bacteria. Pathogenic E. coli strains are categorized into pathotypes. Six pathotypes are associated with diarrhea and collectively are referred to as diarrheagenic E. coli.
- Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC)—STEC may also be referred to as Verocytotoxin-producing E. coli (VTEC) or enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC). This pathotype is the one most commonly heard about in the news in association with foodborne outbreaks.
- Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC)
- Enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC)
- Enteroaggregative E. coli (EAEC)
- Enteroinvasive E. coli (EIEC)
- Diffusely adherent E. coli (DAEC)
- General Information. (2015, November 06). Retrieved October 20, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/general/index.html