Microbiology, the branch of science that studies microscopic organisms, benefits virtually all industries around the world. Without the meticulous lab testing undertaken by microbiologists, there would far fewer breakthroughs in fields such as medicine and technology. In addition, there would be fewer new and effective means for testing and identifying hazardous substances.
Microbiology contributes to important discoveries every day. Here are two that have made waves in the scientific community in the past week.
The Discovery of the Oldest Water on Earth
Last week, scientists from the University of Toronto found a source of water in the Kidd Mine in Ontario, that is at least 2 billion years old. This makes it the oldest sample of water ever found on earth and 500 million years older than the second-oldest source, which was found in the same mine in 2013.
The 2013 discovery was found 2.4km down in the silver and zinc mine which, with a depth of 3.1km, is the deepest base metal mine in the world. The extreme depth of the mine and the continued mining activity gave the team a unique opportunity to explore further, resulting in this latest discovery, said Professor Sherwood Lollar, who led the team.
Talking to the BBC she said, "When people think about this water they assume it must be some tiny amount of water trapped within the rock.”
But it is, in fact, a much larger amount, flowing at “rates of litres per minute”.
Incredibly when the most recent sample was analysed, scientists found traces of single-celled organisms.
“By looking at the sulphate in the water, we were able to see a fingerprint that’s indicative of the presence of life,” said Prof Sherwood Lollar.
Whitefly: A Threat to Food Safety
Researchers from the Boyce Thompson Institute discovered the extent of the hazard that whiteflies pose to food safety in a genome sequence study led by Associate Professor Zhangjun Fei. Their team sequenced the genome of the whitefly (Bemisia tabici), an invasive insect responsible for spreading plant viruses worldwide, resulting in billions of dollars of crop losses each year.
"Whitefly is an economically important pest for agriculture crops. It causes direct damage and also is a major vector for viruses, like Tomato yellow leaf curl virus, Cassava mosaic virus and Cassava brown streak virus, so it creates huge crop losses and poses serious threats to food security, especially in Africa and other parts of the developing world," Fei said in Science Daily.
The invasive insect can resist pesticides, transmit more than 300 plant viruses, and feed on at least 1,000 different plant species. The study has recently been published in the biology journal, BioMed Central.
The study of microbiology and the discoveries which flow from the research would not be possible without the right tools. Fort Richard Laboratories Ltd is the leading supplier of microbial media in New Zealand and has enabled various industries to carry out their research.