Arctic Ocean found teeming with new form of chlamydia

Chlamydia. Photo credit: Getty

Scientists have discovered a new species of chlamydia, but don't worry about catching this one.

It's been found running rampant on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, three kilometres deep.

"Finding chlamydiae in this environment was completely unexpected, and of course begged the question what on earth were they doing there?" said PhD student Jennah Dharamshi of Sweden's Uppsala University.

Normally chlamydia needs a host to survive, and in the case of chlamydia trachomatis, that's us. This new type however lives in an environment "devoid of oxygen and macroscopic life forms", and it's unclear how it survives.

The bacteria were found in sediment samples taken near a series of hydrothermal vents.

"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," said senior study author Thijs Ettema of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. 

"Additionally, the environment they live in is extreme, without oxygen and under high pressure, this makes growing them a challenge."

In some areas they examined, the new type of chlamydia was the most dominant bacteria present, suggesting it plays a large role in the Arctic marine ecosystem.

"Every time we explore a different environment, we discover groups of microbes that are new to science. This tells us just how much is still left to discover," said Dharamshi.