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Microbe Roundup

June 19, 2013

Microscopic organisms represent a vast, unexplored territory for biologists trying to understand the earth’s ecology—including the ecology inside our homes and even our bodies.



Strange life forms in the sink. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The search for exotic new species takes scientists to remote corners of the world—and to sink drains in bathrooms. It’s there that a team of scientists, reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found and sequenced the genes of TM6 bacteria. Because TM6 can’t be grown in the laboratory, little is known about them—even though they may play roles in the spread of disease. The report highlights techniques for isolating the genetic material of elusive bacteria, to help fill the gaping hole in our understanding of microbes and their effects.

In other news, the earth’s first spark of life had extraterrestrial origins, according to scientists writing in the Journal of Physical Chemistry. Their computer models show that comet impacts on the young earth provided the conditions needed to create the complex building blocks of life. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.