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Clean Room Microbes: Alien Invaders?

Top 10 New Species of 2014


Photo credit: Tersicoccus DSM 30842 (cocci.ppt)
Image provided by Leibniz-Institute DSMZ and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology Caption:


Top 10 New Species of 2014

About Clean Room Microbes

Name: Tersicoccus phoenicis

Kingdom: Bacteria

Family: Micrococcaceae

How it made the Top 10: There are some things we don't want to send into space and the newly discovered clean room microbes are among them. Found in rooms where spacecraft are assembled, this microbial species could potentially contaminate other planets that the spacecraft visit. Tersicoccus phoenicis was independently collected from the floors of two separate clean rooms around 2,500 miles apart, one in Florida and one in French Guiana. While frequent sterilization reduces the microbes found in clean rooms, some resistant species persist that can tolerate extreme dryness; wide ranges of pH, temperature and salt concentration; and exposure to UV light or hydrogen peroxide. This work was performed in collaboration with Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (USA), University of Regensburg (Germany), Leibniz-Institute DSMZ (Germany) and California State University Los Angeles (USA).

Etymology: The species name, phoenicis, is from the Latin for phoenix as the species was isolated from the surface of the Mars Phoenix spacecraft assembly facility.

Type material: Type strain at the Leibniz-Institute DSMZ – German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures, Braunschweig, Germany

Type locality: Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility, Kennedy Space Center, Fla., United States of America

Reference: Vaishampayan P, Moissl-Eichinger C, Pukall R, Schumann P, Spröer C, Augustus A, Roberts AH, Namba G, Cisneros J, Salmassi T, Venkateswaran K. 2013. Description of Tersicoccus phoenicis gen. nov., sp. nov. isolated from spacecraft assembly clean room environments. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 63: 2463–2471.

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