New to science: August 2015

KumarakomHouseBoatEach 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 hate to put a dampener on things, but as we move into September, I can’t help but feel that summer is over. Winter is coming. Still, rain or shine (or snow), we have plenty of wonderful newly discovered microbes to share with you this month.

We begin with the humble swede (or rutabaga as it’s sometimes known). A team from Belgium and Finland was investigating the spoilage microbiota in sous-vide cooked vegetables (which are sealed under vacuum in plastic and then boiled) and found the novel species Leuconostoc rapi, a genus often associated with the fermentation of vegetables.

If all this talk of vacuum-steamed turnips is making your mouth water (what could be more delicious?) then you might have our next species in your mouth right now. Japanese scientists have identified a new strain of bacteria, Porphyromonas pasteri, from human saliva. It’s named in honour of the oral microbiologist, Bruce Paster.

Swedes and turnips are often fed to farm animals as part of a healthy diet. And all those turnips can only lead to one thing… Manure! Scientists from Canada have been getting their hands dirty in the manure tanks of pigs and dairy cattle, and identified the novel species, Arcobacter lanthieri.

One of my favourites this month is Hoeflea olei, a proteobacterium isolated from diesel-contaminated backwaters in Kerala. The team of Indian researchers discovered that H. olei can actually use diesel oil for growth, as well as being anoxygenic and phototropic (meaning it can capture energy from light without oxygen).

Bacteria from the genus Streptomyces are well known for producing many of our antibiotics. Researchers from Korea have now discovered Streptomyces polymachus living in Korean soil, which displays antimicrobial activity against a range of microbial species including E. coli.  

Finally, Pythium kandovanense is a novel fungus-like micro-organism that causes a peculiar plant disease: snow rot. Disease symptoms occur on leaves of winter cereals and grasses, just after the snow has melted. Water-soaked areas of the affected tissues become grey and eventually die.

As I said, winter is coming.

Anand Jagatia

Image credit: Lenish on Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 3.0
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