Microbe Spotlight: Week 5

NDSU Microbiology
by NDSU Microbiology

The students in Infectious Disease Pathogenesis Lab will be blogging about the strange and wonderful this semester. This week's guest bloggers are: Mitch Maki and Michael Mann. Check back next week for a new selection of microbe spotlights.

Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum

Methanogens belong to Domain Archaea. They are organisms that produce methane by using H2 to reduce CO2 to CH4. Other methanogens break down acetic acid (CH3COOH) to create methane and carbon dioxide. Unlike these other methanogens, Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum needs only hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and a few salts in order to survive. These minimal growth requirements allow M. thermoautotrophicum to survive in strictly anaerobic environments, including pockets within wastewater treatment plants.

In 1971, M. thermoautotrophicum was isolated from a wastewater plant in Champaign, Ill. It carries out the final step in anaerobic digestion, which is a microbial digestion process used in sewage treatment to detoxify solid waste. Since 1971, this methanogen has been extensively grown and studied in lab.It is very easy to culture, and the entire genome has been sequenced in order to learn more about the process by which this microbe produces methane. Although only parts of this seven-step process have been figured out, there have been many advances in using M. thermoautotrophicum to breakdown organic waste to useable fuel. Methane can be scrubbed and used as natural gas, or it can be used directly to run engines and boilers.

By Mitch Maki

Image: Alex Marshall, Clarke Energy, License

Mycobacterium haemophilum

Mycobacterium haemophilum is fairly new to us; it was only discovered in 1978. The genus Mycobacterium includes organisms such as M. tuberculosis and M. leprae, which cause nasty diseases. Although M. haemophilum is less virulent than its cousins, it is able to cause skin, bone, joint, and pulmonary infections. It generally affects people who are immunocompromised. M. haemophilum is also associated with infections resulting from permanent make-up treatment, tattoos, and acupuncture. M. haemophilum is acid fast, forms short rods, and is quite fastidious.

By Michael Mann

Image: NIAID