“ Pokémonas ” live in round amoebae, similar to Pokémon, which are caught inside balls in the popular video game. A research team from the University of Cologne has discovered previously undescribed bacteria in amoebae that are linked to Legionella and can even cause disease. Researchers in Professor Michael Bonkowski’s working group at the Institute of Zoology named one of the newly discovered bacteria “ Pokemonas ” because they live in spherical amoebae, comparable to the Pokémon in the game, which are caught in balls. . The results of their research have been published in the journal Frontiers in cellular and infectious microbiology.
Bacteria of the order Legionella have long been of scientific interest because some of these bacteria are known to cause lung disease in humans and animals – such as ‘Legionnaires’ disease, which is caused by the species Legionella pneumophila. and can sometimes be fatal. Legionellales bacteria live and multiply as intracellular parasites in the cells of organisms as hosts. In particular, the hosts of Legionellales are amoebae. The term “amoeba” is used to describe a variety of microorganisms which are not closely related, but which share variable shape and crawling locomotion by means of pseudopodia. “ We wanted to screen amoeba for Legionella and chose a group of amoeba for our research that had no close relationship to the hosts previously studied. The choice fell on the group of amoeba Thecofilosea, often neglected by researchers ”, explains Marcel Dominik Solbach.
And indeed, the spherical Thecofilosea serve as host organisms for Legionellales. In Thecofilosea amoebae from environmental samples, scientists were able to detect various species of Legionellales, including two previously undescribed genera and one undescribed species of the genus Legionella. “The results show that the range of known host organisms for these bacteria is considerably wider than previously thought. Furthermore, these results suggest that many more amoebae could serve as hosts for Legionella – and therefore potentially vectors of disease. To explore this question further, we are now sequencing the complete genome of these bacteria, ”said Dr Kenneth Dumack, who led the project.
In the future, these new findings should help better understand how Legionella bacteria relate to each other and clarify their interactions with their hosts as well as infection pathways to prevent disease outbreaks in humans.
The researchers named one of the genera of bacteria they discovered “Pokemonas”. The genre name “ Pokemonas ” is a pun based on the “ Pokémon ” video game franchise, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and that most schoolchildren, college students and their parents should be familiar with. The name alludes to the intracellular way of life of the bacteria present in the ball-shaped Thecofilosea amoeba, because in the games of the “ Pokémon ” series, the little monsters are caught in balls, much like the “ Pokemonas ” in the Thecofilosea.
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