Scientists are on the hunt for microbes that can turn plant material into simple sugars, which can in turn be fed to yeast to produce ethanol --  a low emission, renewable fuel.

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a pair of bacteria found in the human stomach might be especially adept at the task.

Lead researcher Isaac Cann, a professor of genomic biology at the University of Illinois, was looking at microbes in cows when he made the leap. "In looking for biofuels microbes in the cow rumen, we found that Prevotella bryantii, a bacterium that is known to efficiently break down (the plant fiber) hemicellulose, gears up production of one gene more than others when it is digesting plant matter," Cann said in a statement.

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But when he and his team searched for genes similar to that one across the animal kingdom, human gut microbes popped up.

As it turns out, the two bacteria (Bacteroides intestinalis and Bacteroides ovatus), which are related to the species found in cows, are actually better at breaking down plant fibers.

Cann and his team are still working on confirming just how the microbes break down fiber into simple sugar -- and whether or not the bugs in our tummies could really contribute to biofuel production.

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