Pseudomonas Putida CBB5: New Bacteria Can Live On Caffeine

05/24/2011 04:55 pm ET | Updated Jul 24, 2011

It turns out investment bankers and over-worked journalists aren't the only organisms that can survive on caffeine.

Scientists have recently discovered a new type of bacteria that breaks down caffeine molecules into smaller pieces that they can use for metabolic processes, according to Scientific American. The bacterium-energizing molecule is actually comprised of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen, all of which are necessary for life.

Pseudomonas putida CBB5 breaks caffeine into a carbon dioxide molecule and an ammonia molecule, according to Physorg. No other caffeine eating bacterium has previously been found.

It might not seem like an amazing discovery at first, but the ground-breaking find is actually incredibly rare. Normally, organisms only break down sugars in order to gain energy (though enzymes like these aren't entirely unheard of).

Scientists believe they may find a number of uses for these enzymes.

From SA:

Summers and his collaborators noted that the enzymes might be useful to develop new medications to treat heart arrhythmias or asthma, or to boost blood flow. The bacteria-generated enzymes could also be scaled up to help break down excess caffeine generated by industry during decaf coffee and tea processing.

According to Physorg, these bacteria could be used to create molecules that are otherwise synthetically synthesized. The use of an organic process is both more cost effective and easier.