According to Ryan Summers, researcher in chemical and biochemical engineering at the University of Iowa, Pseudomonas putida CBB5, a newly discovered bacterium, consumes caffeine, breaking it down into carbon dioxide and ammonia.  In a summary of his new study, presented May 24 at the 111th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans, Sommers stated that the bacterium can “eat” caffeine for growth and reproduction.

Summers said that the enzymes that the bacterium uses to digest caffeine might be used to develop new medications to treat heart arrhythmias or asthma or to increase blood flow. Byproducts of the caffeine breakdown process are building blocks for drugs that treat asthma, improve blood flow and stabilize heart arrhythmias. These compounds are difficult to produce in the lab, so using the bacteria’s special enzymes could simplify pharmaceutical production.

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