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FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2003 Jan 21;218(1):161-5.

Microorganisms cultured from stratospheric air samples obtained at 41 km.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK.


Samples of air removed from the stratosphere, at an altitude of 41 km, were previously found to contain viable, but non-cultureable bacteria (cocci and rods). Here, we describe experiments aimed at growing these, together with any other organisms, present in these samples. Two bacteria (Bacillus simplex and Staphylococcus pasteuri) and a single fungus, Engyodontium album (Limber) de Hoog were isolated from the samples. Although the possibility of contamination can never be ruled out when space-derived samples are studied on earth, we are confident that the organisms originated from the stratosphere. Possible mechanisms by which these organisms could have attained such a height are discussed.

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