Just what we needed . . . a new kind of bacteria

Jan. 25, 2005

While cataloging microbial species that inhabit swine manure and produce its offending odor, a team of scientists discovered a whole new genus of bacteria. They named it Hespellia, after Robert B. Hespell, who did pioneering studies on the scientific description of anaerobic bacteria—those that can live without oxygen. He was interested in improving digestive processes within the rumen, the first of the four stomachs of ruminant animals, where cellulose is broken down by bacteria.

The new bacteria were found growing in a pit of pig manure. Genetic analysis showed them to be Gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria that were named H. stercorisuis and H. porcinia. Though the two are 97 percent identical, they are different enough from other anaerobes to warrant classification as members of a new genus.

Terence R. Whitehead, USDA-ARS Fermentation Biotechnology Research Unit, Peoria, Illinois; phone (309) 681-6272.

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