Microbial life is incredibly diverse. There are microbes that can survive the crushing pressure, low temperatures, and lack of light in the deep ocean, and others that have a thousand times more resistance to radiation than humans. A nonillion bacteria exist in the world (10 30 ), more than the number of stars in the known universe (100 billion). Scientific study has barely scratched the surface of the microbe world. There are estimated to be one trillion species of microbes on the planet, and scientists have described less than 0.001 percent of these.
Microbes in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park can survive in temperatures up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Microbes are found in virtually all natural environments including in and on the human body. The human body, in fact, plays host to an enormous variety of microbial life. These microbes have more than a million genes compared to only 25,000 human genes. The NIH-funded Human Microbiome Project aims to identify these microbes and determine the relationship between changes in the microbiome and human health. For example, the species Heliobacter pylori can cause gastritis and stomach ulcers, but protects against the development of asthma and allergies.
At InstantLabs, we’re leveraging many of the technologies used in human health projects like the Human Microbiome Project to build tools and services to explore another important microbiome – that of the oilfield. Microorganisms are present throughout the oilfield and while some of these organisms are innocuous, others can cause costly damage through a process called Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC) as we have discussed in previous posts. qPCR is a technology that allows us to quantitate the absolute concentration of different bacterial and archaeal groups present in samples collected in the field. This analysis can be done on-site using our portable Hunter® device or in-laboratory. Then using a technology called next-generation sequencing (NGS), we can dig deep into the interesting samples to determine the identity and relative populations of specific bacteria and archaea down to the genus or species level that are present. Coupling NGS with qPCR is where the real magic happens as it begins to give a complete picture of what is happening thus opening avenues for more effective monitoring and treatment. Are you ready to explore the wild world of microbes?