The Arctic Ocean Has Chlamydia


Mar 13, 2020


Image credits: Christian Åslund/Greenpeace

You read that right. Scientists have discovered an abundance of diverse, thriving chlamydia-related bacteria chilling deep within the Arctic Ocean.

According to a study published in Current Biology, the chlamydiae — chlamydia and related bacteria — live on the Arctic floor, a region devoid of oxygen and under high pressure. The chlamydiae are also strong and independent, needing no host organism to survive. The region where the chlamydiae were found is around 4 kilometers underwater, in the hydrothermal vents found between Iceland, Norway, and Svalbard.

“Finding Chlamydiae in this environment was completely unexpected, and of course begged the question what on earth were they doing there?” Jennah Dharamshi, the lead author of the study and a Ph.D. from Uppsala University in Sweden, said in a statement.

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The research team also discovered that one of the many groups of chlamydiae growing within the ocean is the sort that spreads amid human genitalia due to unsafe sex practices. Some other groups of chlamydiae are so widespread that they were also the dominant bacteria present in some Arctic floor regions. However, rather than causing the ocean’s piss to burn,these chlamydiae might just have a currently unknown, yet significant impact on the marine ecology of this region.

Dharamshi added, “Finding that Chlamydia have marine sediment relatives, has [also] given us new insights into how chlamydial pathogens evolved.”

However, researchers have been unable to either replicate the chlamydiae or capture images of it. “Even if these Chlamydiae are not associated with a host organism, we expect that they require compounds from other microbes living in the marine sediments. Additionally, the environment they live in is extreme, without oxygen and under high pressure, this makes growing them a challenge,” explains Thijs Ettema, co-author and professor of microbiology at the Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

But hey, if you go for a dip in the Arctic, you’re still a lot more likely to catch frostbite than chlamydia.


Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is a culture writer at The Swaddle. Previously, she worked as a freelance journalist focused on gender and cities. Find her on social media @aditimurti.


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