New to Science: September Edition

Posted on September 10, 2014   by Jon Fuhrmann

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.

The summer holiday period is slowly drawing to a close, and laboratories, offices and universities around the world are returning to business as usual. Inevitably, though, the talk tends to turn to the exotic – or not-so-exotic – places we visited over the holidays.

While we may wax lyrical about the far-flung and extravagant places, for many researchers these locations are simply their everyday workplace. This month, we are introduced to a good many newly discovered microbes that are the fruit of these researchers’ labour. In the Tengger desert in northeast China, for example, a team of Chinese and American researchers have isolated Actinophytocola gilvus from a sample of soil crust. In the westernmost reaches of the country, Chinese scientists teamed up with Indian colleagues to identify Rhizobium populi from a desert poplar, a type of willow tree.

Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for the Collection of Micro-organisms and Cell Cultures in Braunschweig have been particularly busy organising interesting field trips. They teamed up with researchers from Tehran and discovered Promicromonospora iranensis in soil in the southwestern Fars province of Iran. They also studied the Tuz Salt Lake and nearby Camalti Saltern in Turkey in collaboration with Turkish colleagues. Here, they isolated Streptomyces iconiensis and Streptomyces smyrnaeus, two bacteria that can tolerate the high salt content of their environment.

Other newly discovered microbes are more closely associated with dangerous diseases than exotic locations. However, not all disease-related news is necessarily bad: amidst the worries about antimicrobial resistance that plague policymakers and healthcare professionals alike, an exciting new discovery has been published in this month’s IJSEM: a team of Malaysian scientists have isolated Streptomyces pluripotens, a bacterium capable of producing a toxin that inhibits the growth of the dangerous methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacterium.

Like MRSA, Klebsiella pneumoniae is a species that often causes infections in hospital environments. Two bacterial strains initially classified as K. pneumoniae have been reclassified into their own species, Klebsiella quasipneumoniae, by French researchers. The subspecies were named quasipneumoniae and similipneumoniae in a nod to the high levels of similarity between the two species.

A US-Canadian team spent several years investigating clinical samples and various water sources in the USA and have discovered a bacterial strain closely related to Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium that causes Cholera. The new species, Vibrio metoecus, is thought to be a fairly common member of the Vibrio genus, although its exact impact in terms of human disease is not yet clear.

Focusing on microbes found in animals, a team of scientists from the School of Dentistry at Nihon University, Japan, isolated two new species of streptococci from the mouths of elephants living in a nearby zoo. The species are named Streptococcus loxodontisalivariusand Streptococcus saliviloxodontae after Loxodonta, the genus that African elephants belong to. Meanwhile, Czech scientists studied the digestive tracts of wild pigs, an area we know surprisingly little about. Indeed, they identified a new species of bacterium, Pseudoscardovia radai, which belongs to a genus whose existence was only established last year.

Meanwhile, a collaboration of US, British and Dutch researchers has discovered a new subspecies of Campylobacter fetus, a bacterium of significance in both human and veterinary medicine. The new subspecies was discovered in humans and several reptile species. The team named it Campylobacter fetus testudinum in reference to Testudines, the order of reptiles that turtles belong to.

The final bacterium in this edition of New to Science will be of particular interest to the cider aficionados amongst us. Lactobacillus sicerae was isolated from traditional cider from the Basque country, known as sagardo, which is traditionally served from large barrels; drinkers “catch” their beverage in their glasses as it emerges from a tap mounted at or above head height. Microbes such as L. sicerae play a role in the fermentation of sagardo, but since the drink is not pasteurised or stabilised, they can survive after bottling and may cause oily or ropy flavours to develop if the cider is left for too long. Cheers!

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