In the hope of learning more about microbes that thrive in the depths of the Arctic, scientists recently conducted sediment analyzes of this low-oxygen environment under high pressure and found several strains of chlamydia, some unknown.
The discovery was published earlier this month in the journal Current Biology.
Dependent on other organisms to survive, Chlamydia is a diverse group of bacteria to which Chlamydia trachomatis belongs, responsible for a sexually transmitted infection, which causes a series of unpleasant symptoms in humans. A new study in current biology has found bacteria at the bottom of the Arctic “abundant, diverse and active”, although there is no clear sign of host organisms in sediment.
“The discovery of chlamydia in this environment was completely unexpected and, of course, raised the question: what the hell are they doing here?” Asked Jennah Dharamshi, a biologist at the University of Uppsala in Sweden and the study’s first author.
The recently discovered Chlamydia was collected at the bottom of the Arctic (more than 3 kilometers below the surface), between Iceland and Norway. After DNA analyzes carried out by the researchers, 51 of the 68 samples contained this type of bacteria, which shares a common ancestor with the chlamydiae responsible for genital and respiratory infections in humans and animals.
Important role of chlamydia in marine ecology
The scientists who made the discovery said it was not easy to recreate the extreme conditions that prevail on the ocean floor, so they were unable to grow microbes in the laboratory, which made it very difficult to accurately study how deep sea chlamydiaes survive. In the absence of host organisms, the team believes they may “need compounds from other microbes that live in marine sediments”.
Given their relationship to classic chlamydiae, the newly discovered bacteria could help researchers understand how it evolved and developed its pathogenic qualities. The new study also challenges scientists’ view of where chlamydia can survive and how they can do it.
Some of the discovered groups were “exceptionally abundant” in ocean sediments, suggesting that they have a significant impact on deep-sea ecosystems. “Chlamydiae have probably been neglected by many previous studies on microbial diversity,” said coauthor Daniel Tamarit, a biologist at the University of Uppsala. “This group of bacteria may play a much more important role in marine ecology than we thought,” he concluded.