Discovery could lead to weapon against invasive species

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A biologist in Albany, N.Y., discovered a bacterium that kills invasive zebra and quagga mussels, which have no natural predators in the U.S. waters they have infested, but appears to have little or no effect on other organisms.

Daniel P. Molloy, an emeritus biologist at the New York State Museum in Albany, is leading a team at the museum’s Cambridge Field Research Laboratory in upstate New York after he discovered a bacterium, Pseudomonas fluorescens strain CL145A, that kills the mussels but appears to have little or no effect on other organisms, according to an article in The New York Times.

New York awarded a license to Marrone Bio Innovations, a company in Davis, Calif., to develop a commercial formulation of the bacterium. The product, Zequanox, has been undergoing tests for several years, with promising results. (Molloy has no financial ties to the company.)

Zequanox killed more than 90 percent of the mussels in a test using tanks of water from Lake Carlos in Minnesota, James A. Luoma, a research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in La Crosse, Wis., told the newspaper. A control group of freshwater mussels, unionids from the Black River in Wisconsin, were unharmed.

In 2011, the federal Environmental Protection Agency reported that P. fluorescens CL145A presented “little risk to nontarget organisms.”

The agency is now evaluating proposed open-water uses for Zequanox.

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