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New bacteria found at Pole

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Oct 10,2004
A team of Korean scientists has discovered two previously unknown species of bacteria growing in temperatures below minus 20 degrees centigrade (-68 degrees Fahrenheit) at the South Pole. Seoul National University professor Chun Jong-sik and a group of researchers from the Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute led by Yoon Ho-il said yesterday that they found the microorganisms in a soil and moss sample collected from penguin habitats near the Sejong Base on King George Island in Antarctica. The two bacteria types were described in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology earlier this month, the scientists said. The online report was available on the Web site of the Society for General Microbiology in mid-September. One of the bacteria was named Sejongia jeonii, in honor of researcher Jeon Jae-gyu, who died at the South Pole last December while trying to save fellow missing researchers during a storm. The other was named Sejongia antarctica. “Bacteria are usually divided into four categories according to the temperature of their growing environment. Those that are found active in very low temperatures have high value and are in many cases used for commercial purposes,” Mr. Chun said. “Those bacteria carry materials used in detergents or water purifiers because they react well in cold water.” The research team has been funded by the Polar Research Institute of the Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute since 2002 to explore for microscopic forms of life. So far, the team has succeeded in retrieving more than 100 different species ― 15 of which were previously unknown, including the two bacteria. The scientists said they would distribute samples of the bacteria to domestic microorganism research centers and companies through the Microbial Genomics and Applications Center, a research organization that operates under the Ministry of Science and Technology. by Wohn Dong-hee


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