A COMMON SOIL BACTERIUM has been found to be effective in killing off zebra mussels affecting US midwestern waterways. The bacterium does not harm native fish and shellfish species. In small trials, 95% of the zebra mussels clogging pipes at a hydro power facility died after exposure to the bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens, said researcher Daniel Molloy, of the New York State Museum.

His preliminary tests indicate that the bacteria do not harm fish and mussels other than the zebra mussels. According to fellow scientists, his research has the potential to become the only method of zebra mussel control that doesn’t harm native species in the ecosystem, and the only method that holds promise for open water as well as industrial facilities.

Molloy tested hundreds of bacteria before finding the soil bacterium that kills zebra mussels and has yet to harm another water animal. Because both live and dead bacteria kill zebra mussels, Molloy suspects that the bacterial cells contain a toxin which kills zebra mussels by destroying their digestive glands.