Rest in peace nanobacteria, you were not alive after all | Science News



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Rest in peace nanobacteria, you were not alive after all

Mystery particles made of minerals and proteins may still cause disease

10:40pm, April 23, 2008

Nanobacteria, extremely tiny “microorganisms” that have sparked controversy and may cause disease, have been declared dead. Again.

Some say the nanobacteria were never really alive. Once touted as the world’s smallest living organisms, and even an entirely new form of life, the entities are actually nothing more than sub-microscopic balls of minerals and proteins, independent teams of scientists in Taiwan and France report.

Surviving the nanobacteria is their “father,” Robert Folk, a geologist from the University of Texas at Austin, who discovered them in deposits from Italian hot springs in the early 1990s. Folk and his colleagues have since found the objects, which are a thousandth the size of common bacteria such as E. coli, in sedimentary mineral deposits ranging from limestone to iron oxides to silicates. The microbes may be major players in eroding rocks to make soil, Folk believes.

Initial evidence for na

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