Newly discovered bacteria named after South Africa’s Chief Public Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier


South Australia’s chief public health officer has joined a star-studded list including Beyonce, Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in having a newly discovered species named after them.

A bacterium that could be used in fermented foods and drinks will be named after Nicola Spurrier.

Scott Oliphant, a PhD student at the University of Adelaide, said the lactic acid bacteria were called Nicolia spurrieriana in recognition of Professor Spurrier’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic, which he appreciated as a “science-based management strategy”.

“It took a long time,” he said.

“There is a process, a bit of a committee with supervisors, to go through a possible name and brainstorm.

“And of course you have to Latinize it, so it took a Latin teacher to help us out as well, so it’s actually a very involved process.”

Professor Vladimir Jiranek, Director of Wine Science at the University of Adelaide, with PhD student Scott Oliphant and Director of Public Health Nicola Spurrier.(Provided: University of Adelaide)

The Nicolia spurrieriana was discovered – along with three other species – when researchers analyzed microorganisms on Australian stingless bees.

It could find uses in winemaking, baking, and pickling.

“It is genetically very distinct from other types of lactic acid bacteria,” Oliphant said.

“It has a much larger genome than its neighbors, as well as the presence of unique genes not shared by other lactic acid bacteria.

“This means that it could most likely contribute unique characteristics in food fermentation processes, such as in the creation of bread or the pickling of various foods.

“We’ll also be testing its ability to help with winemaking. Everyone loves unique flavors in wine, as long as they’re delicious.”

A black and white image of small tubes
A cluster of individual Nicolia spurrieriana cells imaged by scanning electron microscopy.(Provided: Microscopy Ken Neubauer/Adelaide)

Professor Spurrier said she was honored to have the bacteria named after her.

“My father, Dr Ross Smith, was a clinical microbiologist at the University of Adelaide Medical School for many years – it would have given him great pleasure if he were still alive,” he said. she declared.

The research has been published in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology.


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