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Beware of the new Siliguri, it’s bacteria, silly
- Urbanisation and contamination of Mahananda breed a germ named after north Bengal city

Siliguri, June 20: A new bacterium discovered by microbiologists at North Bengal University has been named after Siliguri in a paper published by the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM) — the official journal of record for novel primitive bacteria and archaea.

The scientists isolated the bacterium Brevibacterium siligurinese, designated MB18T, from a water sample from the Mahananda river that flows through the town during a research project to study changes in the bacterial composition of the river that began seven years ago.

Their discovery of a new gene in a bacterium from the river two years ago prompted them to initiate a series of investigations that culminated in identifying it as an organism, previously unknown to science.

“Siliguri is undergoing rapid urbanisation and growing populous over the past few years. As a result, more and more waste materials are getting dumped into the Mahananda river through open drains, causing contamination of the river. At the same time, the river is going through constant change in its bacterial composition,” said Ranadhir Chakraborty, the corresponding author of the paper and leader of the research team.

Chakraborty, who is an associate professor and the head of the biotechnology department at NBU, was assisted by Arvind Kumar, a researcher in the bio-technology department and the principal author of the paper.

Chakraborty said further research proved that the bacterium belonged to Brevibacterium genus and its closest relative was Brevibacterium epidermis.

Two specialists in Brevibacterium — Ikbal Agah Ince and Ahmet Kati — from the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands who were consulted during the research are co-authors of the paper.

Agah is a senior faculty member in the department of genetics and bio-engineering at Yeditepe University in Istanbul.

As the procedure requires, the species was sent to International Culture Collection Centre at Belgium for vetting.

“They endorsed our discovery and accepted our paper. The finding was recommended to the IJSEM which published the paper earlier this year. This is the first time that a bacterium has been named after Siliguri and it is a great achievement for us,” Chakraborty said .

“Henceforth, if this species is found in anywhere in the world, it will be referred to as Brevibacterium siliguriense sp.nov. We are waiting for the entry of this species in the Bergey’s Manual, the Bible for microbiologists across the world containing information of all types of bacteria across the world,” Chakraborty said.

A magnified slide of the bacterium named after Siliguri

The prime characteristic of the bacterium is that it is “oligotrophic”, which means that it can survive for long duration on very low nutrition.

“It can survive for as long as one month on low nutrition and even in distilled water,” Chakraborty said.

“This characteristic of the bacteria makes it resistant to antiobiotics. Another feature we have discovered is that it displays gene-capturing mechanism or in other words, can easily accept genes from other bacteria.”