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Published on January 29, 2016

Microbiologists at Altru Discover New Species of Bacteria

Grand Forks, N.D. – Microbiologists in Altru’s Laboratory recently isolated a new species of bacteria. This organism was isolated from a positive blood culture in November 2015. Further testing by Altru’s Laboratory, Mayo Medical Laboratories, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and academic collaborators (Ryan Relich, Ph.D. at the Indiana University School of Medicine and Meghan May, Ph.D. at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine) indicated this was a novel bacterium not currently found in any clinical or research database. Preliminary testing places this isolate in the genus, Pontibacter. 

Altru’s microbiology team has been granted naming rights for the discovery, in recognition of their work. After its place of discovery, the team has voted for the species name “altruii.” The bacteria provisionally named Pontibacter altruii species nova will undergo further testing and publication in an academic journal prior to being accepted as a valid scientific name. 

“This is especially exciting because it demonstrates that we’re still in the age of discovery in microbiology,” explains Marijo Roiko, Ph.D., Altru’s microbiology program director. “Keeping our eyes open to the possibilities will help advance the medical field. Ultimately, this will improve our ability to diagnose and treat patients.”

While it’s quite common to discover new bacteria from environmental sources, they are infrequently isolated from clinical specimens. However, with modern technology and new testing available, organisms that previously got lumped together are being better identified. Having an accurate identification is important for understanding how infections occur to help prevent them and to determine the best antibiotic choices for treatment. Most bacteria related to P. altruii sp. nov. appear to be environmental in nature, and scientists do not expect this new bacteria to be causing many infections. 

About Altru Health System

Altru Health System is a community-owned, integrated system with an acute care hospital, a specialty hospital, more than a dozen clinics in Grand Forks and the region, and a large home care network. It employs more than 200 physicians and 4,000 staff and has an annual net operating revenue of more than $524 million. As the first member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, Altru’s providers have access to clinically integrated tools extending Mayo Clinic’s knowledge and expertise to patients.