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New Strain of Archaea discovered from Lake Sambhar

Scientists at the National Centre for Microbial Resource — National Centre for Cell Science (NCMR-NCCS) in Pune have reported a new archaeon (a kind of microorganism), which they discovered in Sambhar Salt Lake in Rajasthan.

Sambhar Lake has been poorly studied for microbial ecology studies.

With a salt production of 0.2 million tonnes per annum, it is also a hypersaline ecosystem which provides an opportunity for microbial ecologists to understand organisms that thrive in such concentrations.

Once the new organism was found, it took researchers one year to complete the study because archaea grow so slow.

What is Archaea?

  • Archaea (singular archaeon) are a primitive group of microorganisms that thrive in extreme habitats such ashot springs, cold deserts and hypersaline lakes.
  • These slow-growing organisms are also present in the human gut, and have a potential relationship with human health.
  • They are known for producing antimicrobial molecules, and for anti-oxidant activity with applications in eco-friendly waste-water treatment
  • Archaea are extremely difficult to culture due to challenges in providing natural conditions in a laboratory setting,
  • Based on a mandatory genome analysis, researchers found that the organism has potential gene clusters that helps maintain the metabolism of the archaea to survive in extreme harsh conditions.
  • This particular organism also harbours specific pathways for DNA replication, recombination and repair.
  • The new archaeon has been named Natrialba swarupiae, after Dr Renu Swarup, secretary, Department of Biotechnology, for her initiative in supporting microbial diversity studies in the country, the researchers said.
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