New Bacteria in Lake Vostok Actually a Contamination: Reports

First Posted: Mar 12, 2013 07:51 AM EDT

Last week, Russian scientists announced the discovery of a new type of bacterial life found in the water samples collected from the ancient Lake Vostok, buried two miles beneath Antarctic ice.

The finding, which quickly gained the attention of several scientists and researchers, has finally been dismissed by the head of the lab who claimed that the signature is infact a contamination.

According to last week's reports in RIA Novosti, the bacteria found in the water sample cannot be traced anywhere on Earth. They excluded the contaminants and noticed that the DNA didn't match any of the known species listed in global databanks. On comparing the DNA samples with any of the known organisms, they noticed just 86 percent similarities.

But on March 11, the lab confirmed that it was not the bacteria but the contamination that generated the signal, reports LiveScience.

"We found certain specimens, although not many. All of them were contaminants," laboratory head Vladimir Korolyov said in a quote attributed in media reports to the Interfax news agency.

Peter Doran, an Arctic and Antarctic researcher at the University of Illinois was quoted in OurAmazing Planet. He said this is the drawback of neglecting peer reviews before announcing a new finding. Anything can be said in a press release, but on the other hand, the peer review literature is very controlled and needs to be sustained.

According to Korolyov, further analysis will be conducted on the samples in order to determine that the specimens belonged to the contaminants. It could be from the bore hole kerosene, human bodies or lab.

The scientists didn't lose hope as they wait for the fresh water samples that will be produced in May from the second round of drilling.

Korolyov told Interfax that in the drilling which will take place next year, the scientists will use new deep water devices that are designed to collect pure water samples with pure samplers. The device was designed at the Eukaryote lab. 

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