1. März 2020

Potentially pathogenic bacteria isolated from diverse habitats in Spitsbergen, Svalbard


DC Mogrovejo‑Arias, FHH Brill, D Wagner


Environmental Earth Sciences (2020) 79:109


The Arctic ecosystem, a reservoir of genetic microbial diversity, represents a virtually unlimited source of microorganisms that could interact with human beings. Despite continuous exploration of Arctic habitats and description of their microbial communities, bacterial phenotypes commonly associated with pathogenicity, such as hemolytic activity, have rarely been reported. In this study, samples of snow, fresh and marine water, soil, and sediment from several habitats in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard were collected during Summer, 2017. Bacterial isolates were obtained after incubation on oligotrophic media at different temperatures and their hemolytic potential was assessed on sheep blood agar plates. Partial (ɑ) or true (β) hemolysis was observed in 32 out of 78 bacterial species. Genes expressing cytolytic compounds, such as hemolysins, likely increase the general fitness of the producing microorganisms and confer a competitive advantage over the availability of nutrients in natural habitats. In environmental species, the nutrient-acquisition function of these compounds presumably precedes their function as toxins for mammalian erythrocytes. However, in the light of global warming, the presence of  hemolytic bacteria in Arctic environments highlights the possible risks associated with these microorganisms in the event of habitat melting/destruction, ecosystem transition, and re-colinization.