New to science: September 2013

Posted on September 9, 2013   by Benjamin Thompson

Each month, the Society for General Microbiology publishes the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, which details newly discovered species of bacteria, fungi and protists. Here are a few of the new species that have been discovered, and the places they’ve been found. The full papers are available to journal subscribers, but the abstracts are free to read.

I love milk; I drink gallons of the stuff. Primarily cow’s, obviously, but I’m not averse to goat’s or even soy (although it doesn’t make good tea). One thing I’ve never considered is donkey milk. Researchers in South Korea have, and they’ve discovered the bacterium Asinibacterium lactis, which represents the first species of a new genus, living on donkey milk powder.

Something else I love is cheese. While researching this month’s New to science, I learnt that cheese made with donkey milk, known as pule, is the most expensive in the world (tennis ace Novak Djokovic is apparently a fan). At around €1,000 a kilo, it’s a bit rich for my tastes, so I’m happy to stick with cream cheese, which is coincidentally home to Virgibacillus halotolerans. This new species was isolated from a dairy in southern Germany by researchers from the Technische Universität München.

Kimchi, the fermented vegetable dish from South Korea – and another food I’m fond of – has had its microbial population thoroughly studied. This month, however, researchers have identified Lactobacillus yonginensis, a new species of lactic acid bacteria from kimchi soup.

Another fermented Korean dish (that I’m yet to try) is jeotgal; like kimchi, this foodstuff has its own microbial population. In this case, researchers isolated Brevibacterium jeotgali from saeu-jeot, a variety of jeotgal made from shrimp. After 120 days of fermentation at 15° C, saeu-jeot supernatant was serially diluted using artificial seawater before being incubated, revealing the yellow, circular colonies of the new species.

One food I do my very best to avoid is raw chicken. As well as being home to well-known pathogens like Campylobacter jejuni, it turns out that the uncooked meat is also somewhere you can find Chryseobacterium carnipullorum. This new species was isolated from a poultry processing plant in Bloemfontein, South Africa, with its name carnipullorum meaning ‘flesh of a chicken’ in Latin. The genus Chryseobacterium includes many other food-spoiling species.

It’s perhaps time to move as far away from food as possible (I guess literally in this case), so let’s talk about faeces – specifically chinchilla faeces. Japanese researchers have discovered Parabacteroides chinchillae, the fifth new species that they’ve isolated from this ecological niche.

These are just a few of the new species described this month; you can see the full list at IJSEM. We’ll be back again next month with a host of new ones; look out for us then!

Image: bagsgroove on Flickr