News & AnalysisMicrobiology

Concerns About Arsenic-Laden Bacterium Aired

Science  03 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6034, pp. 1136-1137
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6034.1136

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The debate that erupted 5 months ago over whether a bacterium could thrive on arsenic, even incorporating the element in its DNA, is finally being aired in the scientific literature rather than on blogs. Originally published online by Science on 2 December 2010, the paper describing this potentially unprecedented microbe appears on page 1163 of this week's issue. Eight Technical Comments, released online last week, formally raise many of the criticisms that were quickly hurled when the study was published online and publicized in a NASA briefing. The scientific exchange is unlikely to be the final word on the contentious issue, all agree, especially because there have yet been no independent studies of the microbe at the center of this spat.