A research team from Umeå University, SLU and Algeria has found bacteria with some interesting properties in previously unexplored caves at a depth of several hundred meters in Algeria. One of these properties is the breakdown of gluten, which can be interesting for people with a gluten allergy. The results were published in Microbiological spectrum.
“This study is yet another example of the fantastic potential of exciting microbes on our own planet. Despite intensive research, we have managed to map only a small fraction of all microbes on Earth,” said Natuschka Lee, researcher at the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences at Umeå University.
When Jules Verne wrote his novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, many people downplayed the wild fantasies of the existence of life in the underworld. It took decades for biologists to seriously investigate life underground.
Today it is known that at least 30% of all microorganisms on earth live deep underground – under completely different conditions than the life forms on the earth’s surface, for example without sunlight and therefore without plants. Research into subsurface life can provide us with interesting information about how life can develop in different ways on Earth and whether there might also be life underground on other celestial bodies, such as on the planet Mars.
Caves can act as a natural gateway to the underworld. Caves can be found all over the world, but only a fraction of them have been explored. Over the past decade, cave research has received a lot of interest, even in the context of space exploration, as some planets, such as Mars, have been discovered to contain many caves.
In the current study, Natuschka Lee in collaboration with Baraa Rehamnia, until recently visited Ph.D. A student from Constantine University in Algeria (who will do her dissertation on this research topic in the summer of 2022) and Ramune Kuktaite, researcher at SLU’s Department of Plant Breeding in Alnarp, have searched for interesting features of spore-forming bacteria in up to now unexplored caves on a depth of several hundred meters in Algeria.
These bacteria are closely related to the Bacillus group, a group of bacteria much studied in astrobiology for their impressive survivability and which play an important role on our own planet in various contexts, partly as pathogens, partly as beneficial microbes in both ecological and environmental contexts. and biotechnological contexts.
“For example, we found strains that can produce antimicrobials or that can break down gluten, a substance that can cause inflammatory reactions in the gut in many people. The bacteria were also shown to be able to tolerate the extreme conditions in our digestive system,” he says. Natushka Lee.
In the future, the researchers will investigate whether these bacteria can be of use in the biotech industry in cases of gluten allergy, for example.
Can terrestrial life survive on Mars?
Baraa Rehamnia et al, Screening of spore-forming bacteria with probiotic potential in pristine Algerian caves, Microbiological spectrum (2022). DOI: 10.1128/spectrum.00248-22
Quote: Bacteria with interesting properties discovered in underground caves (2022, October 14) retrieved October 14, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-bacteria-properties-underground-caves.html
This document is copyrighted. Other than fair dealing for personal study or research, nothing may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.