Biotech Updates

Plant Growth-Promoting Microbe Shares Features with Human Pathogen

June 18, 2009

Scientists from the Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US, University College Cork in Ireland and Graz University of Technology in Austria have discovered extensive similarities between a strain of bacteria commonly associated with plants and one increasingly linked to opportunistic infections in hospital patients. The scientists say that the findings may have important implications in biotechnology, since the plant-associated strain is used in a range of biotech applications.

Daniel van der Lelie and colleagues compared two strains of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. Stenotrophomonas species are known for their versatility and adaptability in diverse environments. Some strains cause bloodstream and pulmonary infections whereas others promote plant growth. The researchers identified genes that make the bacteria resistant to a wide range of antibiotics in both strains. According to van der Lelie, this suggests that antibiotic resistance is part of the species' core genome, and not a trait acquired in the hospital. He cautions against the use of Stenotrophomonas in biotech applications for which it has shown promise, including increasing plant growth, protecting plants against pathogens and production of pharmaceutical proteins and enzymes.

Read the original article at Subscribers can download the paper published by Nature Reviews Microbiology at