An international team of researchers have discovered the first examples of a “fluorescent” microbe species found in the soil of Ireland.

The finding could help identify the source of the contamination in areas with a high concentration of “fluorescent” bacteria, which are used in agriculture and industry, including in the construction industry.

“The results suggest that a significant number of fluorescent microbe types may have been present in Irish soils before the outbreak and that these may have affected the production and use of some foodstuffs, particularly those with anaerobic or bacterial character,” the researchers said in a statement.

They said the discovery “could help to identify the origin of the contaminant in areas where the use of certain foodstuff has been linked to anaerobiosis or an increased risk of illness”.

The findings come from a study published in the journal Science on Monday.

Scientists found the fluorescent microbials were found in soils and sediment samples taken in several Irish regions, including Galway, the west, Limerick and Mayo.

The team, led by Dr Jens-Olof Rønning of the Norwegian Institute of Applied Science and Technology (NIV), said the microbe was not a type of microbe previously known to exist in the world.

“This is a very exciting discovery, which has many implications,” Dr Rønen said.

“We have found that the fluorescent type of the microbial we found in soil samples of Irish soil, which we have identified as fluoro-cyanobacteria, is not necessarily a type that was previously known in Ireland.”

Dr Rørnning said the researchers were also able to determine the time period in which the samples were collected, which helped determine the source and time of arrival of the organisms.

“In addition, we have also been able to establish that the fluorescence is not limited to the surface of the soil, and could be found in other areas of the plant as well,” Dr Jenning said.

He said the finding was “very exciting”, adding that it “shows that these microbios are not only abundant in Irish-controlled agricultural land, but that they can also be found at the site of farming as well”.

Dr Rokning said it was important to consider the impact of these microbes on the soil environment and to understand their relationship with the environment and human health.

“It’s also important to recognise that this finding is very important for the research community because this is the first time that we have found this type of bacteria in soil,” he said.

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the National Science Foundation.

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