Chapter 63 : The Relevance of Taxonomy

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Of all the branches of microbiology, taxonomy is the one that seems to be seriously boring. Virology is compelling because it dealt with the great plagues of world history and the new threats of today, while protozoology concerns the scourges of the tropics and their fascinating life cycles. Mycology deals with the antibiotic-producing superbugs and soil bacteriology with the very maintenance of life on Earth. By comparison, taxonomy seems to be a tedious art, practiced by the equally tedious. An aspect of the practical importance of taxonomy is sharply highlighted by a paper in . It contained a chemotaxonomic and molecular biological comparison of various isolates of the extremely familiar , and illustrated the crucial importance of taxonomy in assessing the safety of various modern and future applications of microbiology. A group of researchers’ principal finding that strains of obtained from clinical infections were indistinguishable from those that are prime candidates for the bioremediation of oil-contaminated soil and water, was not only inherently interesting, it was also significantly disturbing. The 89 isolates proved to be strains of . All degraded naphthalene, -xylene, ethyl benzene, and other low-molecular-weight aromatics. They fell into two distinct taxonomic clusters, and members of one group from each also grew on alkanes, such as -hexane and methyl-cyclopentane. is a well-known opportunistic pathogen, particularly in nosocomial and pulmonary infections in patients with cystic fibrosis. At worst, it suggested that organisms being considered as prime candidates for bioremediation are also opportunistic pathogens.

Citation: Dixon B. 2009. The Relevance of Taxonomy, p 296-299. In Animalcules. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817442.ch63
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2. Foght, J. M.,, D. W. Westlake,, W. M. Johnson,, and H. F. Ridgway. 1996. Environmental gasoline-utilizing isolates and clinical isolates of Pseudomonas aeruginosa are taxonomically indistinguishable by chemotaxonomic and molecular techniques. Microbiology 142: 2333 2340.
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