Desert people are able to drink poisoned with arsenic water

Although the ability to drink the poisoned water is unlikely to enter the top most desired superpowers, people in the South American Atacama desert — is a matter of life and death. The fact that the scarce sources of water here is often contaminated with arsenic. The indigenous peoples who call this place home are born with the ability to drink the poisoned water thanks to the evolution.

Researchers at the University of Chile in Santiago found that people from the region to the Quebrada Camarones in the Atacama have remarkable resistance to arsenic, and conducted a genetic study of how this property has evolved.

It’s all in the enzyme called AS3MT, which has the ability to unite with the arsenic in one of the two connections — monomethylarsonic acid and cacodylic acid. Less toxic of them — cacodylic acid, so people that have variants in AS3MT, which converts the arsenic in this compound, can drink the poisoned water.

The researchers found that the inhabitants of the Atacama desert, the percentage of AS3MT variant of the enzyme that produces cacodylic acid, higher than that of other inhabitants of the Earth.

The Atacama desert — the driest non-polar desert in the world, so choose water is not necessary. Contamination by arsenic there is often more than 1 microgram per liter, which is 100 times above the safe level set by the world health organization. So the only way to survive here is to develop a resistance to arsenic.

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