Antarctic Science

Papers—Life Sciences and Oceanography

Detection of human commensals in the area around an Antarctic research station

M. Upton a1p1, T.H. Pennington a1, W. Haston a2 and K.J. Forbes a1
a1 Department of Medical Microbiology, Aberdeen University Medical School, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK
a2 British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit, RGIT Survival Centre, Kings Street, Aberdeen AB2 3BJ, UK

Article author query
upton m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
pennington t   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
haston w   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
forbes k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Human contamination of Antarctic environments is a sensitive issue and has been the focus of many research articles over the past 35 years. The majority of these studies have targeted waste materials and various hydrocarbons, with assessment of microbial contaminants being largely restricted to sewage outfalls. The present study aimed to detect bacteria of human origin in the area surrounding Halley research station. It was apparent from both molecular and culture methods that bacteria of human origin are extremely difficult to detect outside the immediate surrounding of the buildings, though recommendations are made for increasing the probability of determining the presence of organisms in the environment. The results also indicate that molecular methods are more sensitive than cultural techniques, in that the only evidence for organisms in the environment surrounding the buildings came from positive PCR reactions. PCR would appear to be a useful method for studying the microbial ecology of Antarctic environments.

(Received October 3 1996)
(Accepted March 4 1997)

Key Words: Antarctic microbiology; human commensals; polymerase chain reaction.

p1 School of Biological Sciences, Life Science Building, University of Liverpool, PO Box 147, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK