Indian scientists discover new bacteria in Stratosphere


16 Mar 2009, 1909 hrs IST, PTI

BANGALORE: Three new species of bacteria, which are not found on earth and highly resistant to ultra violet radiation, have been discovered in the upper stratosphere by some Indian scientists.

One of the new species has been named as Janibacter Hoylei after the distinguished astrophysicist Fred Hoyle. The second bacteria has been named as Bacillus Isronensis recognising the contribution of ISRO in balloon experiments which led to its discovery and the third bacterial bacillus Aryabhata after India's celebrated ancient astronomer Aryabhata and also the first satellite of ISRO.

According to ISRO, the balloon experiment was conducted using 26.7 million cubic feet balloon carrying a 459 kg scientific payload soaked in 38 kg of liquid neon which was flown from the national balloon facility in Hyderabad, operated by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR).

The payload consisted of a cryosampler containing 16 evacuated and sterilised stainless steel probes. Throughout the flight, the probes remained immersed in the liquid neon to create a "cryopump effect". These cylinders after collecting air samples from different heights ranging from 20 to 41 km were parachuted down and safely retrieved, it said.

The samples were analysed by the scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, as well as the National Centre for Cell Sciences, Pune, for independent examination.

As per the analytical findings, 12 bacterial and six fungal colonies were detected, nine of which, based on '16s RNA gene sequence' showed greater than 98 per cent similarity with reported known species on earth.

Three bacterial colonies named PVAS-1, B3 W22 and B8 W22 were totally new species and had significantly higher UV resistances compared to their nearest plogenetic neighbours, ISRO said.

Of the above, PVAS1 has been named as Janibacter Hoylie, B3W22 as Bacillus Isronensis and B8W22 as Bacillus Arayabhata.

This multi-institutional effort had Jayant Narlikar from the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, as the principal investigator.

Veteran scientists U R Rao from ISRO and P M Bhargava from Anveshna supported the experiment as mentors. S Shivaji from CCMB and Yogesh Shouche from NCCS were the biology experts, while Ravi Manchanda from TIFR was in charge of the balloon facility. C B S Dutt was the project Director from ISRO who was in charge of preparing and operating the complex payload.

This was the second such experiment conducted by ISRO, the first being in 2001. Even though the first experiment had yielded positive results, it was decided to repeat the experiment by exercising extra care to ensure it was totally free from territorial contamination.