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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jul > Jul 18

New Scientist: ET Bacteria Cause Of Human Diseases?

From: Stig Agermose <Stig_Agermose@online.pol.dk>
Date: Sat, 18 Jul 1998 07:17:46 +0200
Fwd Date: Sat, 18 Jul 1998 08:55:49 -0400
Subject: New Scientist: ET Bacteria Cause Of Human Diseases?

URL:

http://www.newscientist.com:80/ns/980711/nkidney.html

Stig

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[Archive: 11 July 1998]


News


Mean microbes


By Michael Day


Tiny bacteria may cause kidney stones, a scientist in Finland claims.
Olavi Kajander of Kuopio University says these enigmatic "nanobacteria"
surround themselves with mineral shells that could cause harmful
calcium deposits in the body. He even speculates that the bacteria may
have arrived on Earth from elsewhere in the Universe.

Kajander found the bacteria, which are less than 0=B71 micrometres long,
in the blood of humans and cows. He says they are genetically similar
to other established types of bacteria such as Brucella and Bartonella.

In the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences (vol 95, p 8274), Kajander and his colleague Neva =C7ift=E7iglu
say the bacteria erect mineral coatings. "They probably provide
excellent shelter," says Kajander. Because the mineral coatings are
similar to the aggregates found in kidney stones, he suspected they
might be the cause of the stones. Sure enough, he found that cells
infected with the nanobacteria developed mineral deposits both inside
and outside. And tests on 30 human kidney stones showed they all
contained the bacteria. "This isn't proof that the nanobacteria cause
kidney stones, but it's very strong evidence," says Kajander.

In a commentary on the research in the same journal (vol 95, p 7846),
Dennis Carson of the University of California at San Diego says that
these bacteria or their close relatives may figure in a host of other
human diseases. These include heart disease, some tumours and dementia
due to abnormal calcium deposition in the brain.

Killing these bacteria would take some time because they are protected
by their mineral coats. But Kajander suggests that long courses of the
antibiotic tetracycline might eradicate them.

John Postgate, emeritus professor of microbiology at Sussex University,
says the nanobacteria may be common bacteria that have shrunk due to
lack of nutrients. However, he would be surprised if they exist in
blood. "Cow's blood doesn't sound like a very nutrient-deficient diet,"
he says. "But we have to keep an open mind on this."

But microbiologist David Roberts of the Natural History Museum in
London argues that these shrunken bacteria could be near starvation in
blood, which can be difficult for some microbes to metabolise. He
suspects there may well be such unusual bugs in the "nanoscopic" world.
"People often fail to realise that life on a microscopic scale is much
more varied than life on a macroscopic scale. It's been around a lot
longer."

Kajander suggests the nanobacteria may have come from space. Unlike
other bacteria, he argues, they could survive the ultraviolet radiation
in space thanks to their mineral coats. "I guess a shell like that
would help bacteria floating around in space," says David Mackay of
NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. But he adds that the idea is
wildly speculative at this stage.

Nonetheless, NASA has invited Kajander and =C7ift=E7iglu to join its
Astrobiology Institute, an interdisciplinary collaboration between
scientists all over the globe whose aim is to investigate the
possibility of extraterrestrial life and its implications.

NASA hopes to learn from Kajander's technique for culturing
nanobacteria. They are similar to small bacteria found in hot springs,
where many scientists believe life arose (but see New Scientist, print
edition, 11 July 1998, p 10). Nanobacteria may have been among the
earliest life forms on Earth, and possibly on other planets.


>From New Scientist, 11 July 1998

=A9 Copyright New Scientist, RBI Limited 1998