Press Releases

Scientists discover new bacterial group – USDA press release – University of Reading

Release Date : 26 May 2004

picture of pigThe Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency, issued a press release as its 'lead story' of Tuesday 25 May, 2004, concerning a joint research project between the University and the ARS. Researchers in the UK and the USA working to identify micro-organisms which produce potentially harmful chemicals have discovered a new genus of bacteria – called Hespellia – during a major study into the microbiology of pig manure storage pits. A genus is a specific taxonomic group of closely related species. Dr Paul Lawson, of the University of Reading's Food Microbial Sciences Unit, along with scientists from the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) in the States concluded the genus was new after comparing the 16S rRNA genes, to other species and analyzing the new microbes' biochemical features. The team discovered the Hespellia bacteria while cataloging microbial species that inhabit swine manure and produce its offending odour. Collecting such information can yield important clues for figuring out new ways of diminishing the odours. New pig feed formulations with improved digestibility and novel waste-handling systems are two possibilities. Besides sulphides that contribute to swine manure's stink, the waste also emits gases like ammonia and methane that can be environmentally harmful. Hespellia has been posthumously named in honour of ARS microbiologist Robert B. Hespell. He worked at NCAUR until his death in August 1998, with pioneering studies on the scientific description of anaerobic bacteria and their use in improving digestion in the rumen of cows and sheep. Anaerobes are organisms that thrive in oxygen free environments--including those outside of animal hosts, such as manure storage pits and lagoons where manure is treated for use as fertilizer. In the January issue of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, Dr Lawson and co-authors Terence Whitehead and Michael Cotta of NCAUR and Mathew Collins of the University of Reading, describe two new species of Hespellia bacteria found growing in a pig manure pit near Peoria, Illinois. Genetic analysis revealed that the Gram positive, rod shaped bacteria – H. stercorisuis and H. porcinia – are 97 percent identical to one another, but are different enough from other anaerobes to warrant classification as members of a new genus. Dr Lawson's work has been funded by the US Department of Agriculture. Ends Notes for editors For media enquiries, please contact Craig Hillsley, the University of Reading's press officer, on: Tel: +44 (0)118 378 7388 Email:


Search Form

Main navigation