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Name: Randy
Status: Student
Age: 13
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2002

Why do traces heavy metal bacteria kill bacteria? How do metal ions affect the growth of bacteria?

Dear Randy,

The toxicity of heavy metals to bacteria is exactly the same as for people. Each toxic metal has a different mechanism but they often inhibit enzymes in the cells, or react directly with DNA. All living cells are inhibited by toxic heavy metals in the same ways. Many organisms have, however, learned how to overcome this toxicity. Frequently they do this by pumping out the toxic metals before they can do danger.

Trudy Wassenaar
Curator of the Virtual Museum of Bacteria

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