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Scientists develop bacteria that needs caffeine to survive and reproduce

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Coffee (Flickr)
Coffee (Flickr)

Scientists at the University of Texas and the University of Iowa have created a synthetic bacteria that grows thanks to one of humankind's favorite stimulants — caffeine. According to a report from Quartz, this bacteria can be added to any caffeinated beverage and it'll grow according to the levels of caffeine in the drink. Eventually, you'll end up with an entirely decaffeinated beverage and you can use the level of growth to determine how much caffeine was there in the first place. The scientists behind this experiment were able to use the bacteria to determine the caffeine content of Red Bull and Monster energy drinks as well as a Starbucks espresso and a Diet Coke — the results all fell within the range reported by the manufacturers.

The bacteria itself are a modification of a naturally occuring bacteria that eats caffeine and was discovered in 2011 by University of Iowa researchers. The thought was to use the bacteria as a tool to help clean up the caffeine pollution that has been on the rise in recent years, but the original bacteria wasn't as reliable a cleaner as originally hoped. However, the modifications made have stirred hopes that it'll be a useful environmental clean-up tool. It's not clear yet when the bacteria will start being used, but Quartz says the team is in the process of filing patents for its breakthrough.