JUL 04, 2022 12:16 PM PDT

Scientists Urge Study of Bacteria in Melting Glaciers

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Globally, temperatures are on the rise. Between the years of 2009 and 2019, glaciers around the world lost an average of about 275 gigatonnes (Gt) of ice every year. While we know all that melting ice is causing sea levels to rise, there are other consequences too. Researchers are now sounding an alarm about the microorganisms that can be found in melting glaciers, and the potential threat they may pose to human health.

Fox glacier, New Zealand / Credit: ┬ęCarmen Leitch

Scientists have recently completed an assessment of the bacterial species that were found in meltwater from Tibetan glaciers. They focused on this area because it is especially "vulnerable to global warming," and meltwater from glaciers in Tibet runs off into areas in China and India that are densely populated, they wrote. This analysis took advantage of advanced genetic tools to reveal an incredibly diverse and large set of bacteria. The findings have been reported in Nature Biotechnology.

A total of 883 bacteria were isolated from 21 locations around Tibetan glaciers, which included areas where snow, ice, and cryoconite (a powdery dust that builds up on glaciers) was present. Back in the lab, the researchers melted the samples that had been collected, and then cultured the microbes that were present within. Next, they used metagenomic tools to sequence all of the DNA in the samples, then assemble complete genomes from the cultures.   

The data that was generated, including 883 genomes from cultures that were grown in the lab, was used to create the Tibetan Glacier Genome and Gene (TG2G) catalog.  Over 30 phyla were represented by the 968 candidate species identified in this study. Within all those genomes were about 25 million different protein-coding genes. About 98 percent of these bacteria have never been researched before this.

The researchers noted that there is incredible potential, both good and bad, in those genes. The team encouraged the study of these bacteria and their protein-coding genes to identify potential pathogens, as well as producers of beneficial compounds.

If any of these microbes are able to infect animal or human cells, it's possible that modern immune systems won't know what to do with these microbes, which may be incredibly old. Recent research by a different team has indicated that melting permafrost contains viruses that are thousands of years old. Those viruses do not appear to pose a threat to human cells. We should learn more about ancient microbes before they surprise us, however.

Source: Nature Biotechnology

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 25, 2022
Cancer
TCGA: An Important Tool for Cancer Research
MAY 25, 2022
TCGA: An Important Tool for Cancer Research
In 2006, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) began a cancer gen ...
MAY 31, 2022
Microbiology
Even the Smallest Organisms Can Host Distinct Microbiomes
MAY 31, 2022
Even the Smallest Organisms Can Host Distinct Microbiomes
Even this juvenile nudibranch from Quadra Island, British Columbia, has a microbiome. / Image credit: Niels Van Steenkis ...
JUN 28, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Scientists Discover Viruses That Infect Archaea
JUN 28, 2022
Scientists Discover Viruses That Infect Archaea
Recent research has suggested that all eukaryotic life is descended from an Asgard archaea
JUL 02, 2022
Genetics & Genomics
HIV Infection Seems to Dramatically Accelerate the Aging Process
JUL 02, 2022
HIV Infection Seems to Dramatically Accelerate the Aging Process
Though there is no standard of normal aging, people with HIV tend to get age-related diseases at younger ages compared t ...
JUL 05, 2022
Neuroscience
Second-born Infants Sleep 50 Minutes Longer with Responsive Parenting
JUL 05, 2022
Second-born Infants Sleep 50 Minutes Longer with Responsive Parenting
Researchers have trained mothers how to help their newborns sleep more at night. The methods work both for firstborns an ...
JUL 07, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Mini-Kidneys Reveal New Insights, Treatments for Multiple Disorders
JUL 07, 2022
Mini-Kidneys Reveal New Insights, Treatments for Multiple Disorders
Researchers have been able to use animal models to study human disease, but there are clear limitations to that approach ...
Loading Comments...