New Species of Chlamydia Bacteria Found in the Arctic Ocean

The bacteria are thriving under intense pressure and lack of oxygen.
Loukia Papadopoulos

If you thought chlamydia was scary, just wait until you meet its cousins. Found under the Arctic Ocean seafloor, these new species of chlamydia can survive despite a lack of oxygen or hosts to prey upon.


Extreme conditions

About 3 kilometers beneath the surface of the Arctic Ocean, scientists have discovered a type of Chlamydiae bacteria that has been thriving despite being subjected to intense pressure and other extreme conditions, including deprivation of oxygen.

"Finding Chlamydiae in this environment was completely unexpected, and of course begged the question what on earth were they doing there?" said in a press release lead author Jennah Dharamshi, a graduate student studying microbial diversity and evolution at Uppsala University in Sweden.

The new find could lead to an understanding of how Chlamydiae evolved to become infectious. Amongst the many types of Chlamydiae found, one kind seemed to be closely related to the chlamydia that infects humans.

The authors speculate that the newfound bacteria may sap resources from other microbes living nearby in order to survive. "Even if these Chlamydiae are not associated with a host organism, we expect that they require compounds from other microbes living in the marine sediments," said senior author Thijs Ettema, a professor of microbiology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

As such, the bacteria could be part of a larger ecosystem at play. "This group of bacteria could be playing a much larger role in marine ecology than we previously thought," said co-author Daniel Tamarit, a postdoctoral researcher in Ettema's lab.

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To learn more about it, the authors want to grow these bacteria in their labs but find it difficult to recreate the microbes' extreme living conditions. If they could study them further, however, they could come to understand how this ancient group of bacteria came to be so infectious.

Is anyone else happy these Chlamydia cousins can only grow in extreme circumstances? The study was published in the journal Current Biology.

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