We have identified an environmental bacterium in the Candidate Division TM7 with ≥98.5% 16S rDNA gene homology to a group of TM7 bacteria associated with the human oral cavity and skin. The environmental TM7 bacterium (referred to as TM7a-like) was readily detectable in wastewater with molecular techniques over two years of sampling. We present the first images of TM7a-like cells through FISH technique and the first images of any TM7 as viable cells through the STARFISH technique. In situ quantification showed TM7 concentration in wastewater up to five times greater than in human oral sites. We speculate that upon further characterization of the physiology and genetics of the TM7a-like bacterium from environmental sources and confirmation of its genomic identity to human-associated counterparts it will serve as model organisms to better understand its role in human health. The approach proposed circumvents difficulties imposed by sampling humans, provides an alternative strategy to characterizing some diseases of unknown etiology, and renders a much needed understanding of the ecophysiological role hundreds of unique Bacteria and Archaea strains play in mixed microbial communities.
Dinis JM, Barton DE, Ghadiri J, Surendar D, Reddy K, et al. (2011) In Search of an Uncultured Human-Associated TM7 Bacterium in the Environment. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21280. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021280