Geobacillus stearothermophilus (basonym Bacillus stearothermophilus) is a rod-shaped, Gram-positive bacterium and a member of the division Firmicutes. The bacterium is a thermophile and is widely distributed in soil, hot springs, ocean sediment, and is a cause of spoilage in food products. It will grow within a temperature range of 30 to 75°C. Some strains are capable of oxidizing carbon monoxide aerobically. It is commonly used as a challenge organism for sterilization validation studies and periodic check of sterilization cycles. The biological indicator contains spores of the organism on filter paper inside a vial. After sterilizing, the cap is closed, an ampule of growth medium inside of the vial is crushed and the whole vial is incubated. A color and/or turbidity change indicates the results of the sterilization process; no change indicates that the sterilization conditions were achieved, otherwise the growth of the spores indicates that the sterilization process has not been met. Recently a fluorescent-tagged strain, Rapid Readout(tm), is being used for verifying sterilization, since the visible blue fluorescence appears in about one-tenth the time needed for pH-indicator color change, and an inexpensive light sensor can detect the growing colonies.
Recently, a DNA polymerase derived from these bacteria, Bst polymerase, has become important in molecular biology applications.
Bst polymerase has a helicase-like activity, making it able to unwind DNA strands. Its optimum functional temperature is between 60 and 65°C and it is denatured at temperatures above 70°C. These features make it useful in loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP). LAMP is similar to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) but does not require the high temperature (96°C) step required to denature DNA.
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