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ISRO discovers new species of bacteria

tech reviews Updated: Mar 18, 2009 00:48 IST
B.R. Srikanth

Indian scientists have discovered three new species of bacteria in the upper stratosphere that they claim to be not found on the earth. The micro-organisms — resistant to ultra-violet (UV) radiation — were detected 40 km from the earth’s surface during a joint experiment.

A balloon, carrying a 459 kg payload made by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was flown from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) facility in Hyderabad on April 20, 2005 to gather samples of air at 20 km to 40 km heights.

A three-year-long study of the samples at National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) led to the detection of these new species, and nine other bacterial and six fungal colonies.

“Next we should probe the stratosphere to clinch the answer on how such organisms exist at such heights,” says former ISRO chairman U.V. Rao, who was one of the mentors of this experiment.