Even biology majors may not have heard much about archaea. Along with bacteria and eukarya (which encompass every organism from fungi to mammals), the elusive microbes make up one of the three domains of life. Now researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have for the first time tied a specific disease to one of these unfamiliar organisms.
"Its not surprising that no one has really heard about them; archaea have still not even penetrated mainstream biology textbooks," said David Relman, MD, associate professor of medicine (infectious diseases) and of microbiology and immunology. There are, however, at least as many of them as there are bacteria, he said.
Archaea look a lot like bacteria, but appearances can be deceiving. Genetically and biochemically they are as different from bacteria as bacteria are from humans. The microbes live in many extreme environments - from hot springs to salt lakes to submarine volcanoes - but also within animals, including the human colon, vagina and mouth.
Mitzi Baker | EurekAlert!
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