Abrar Ifaz

Research Officer, Dismislab
Is the novel bacteria discovered in India named Rabindranath Tagore?
This article is more than 4 months old

Is the novel bacteria discovered in India named Rabindranath Tagore?

Abrar Ifaz

Research Officer, Dismislab

Recently the news about a novel bacteria being named ‘Rabindranath Tagore’ has been circulating in the news media in Bangladesh. This caused the information to gain traction in 8 other educational pages and groups on Facebook. The news media, essentially, reported that a group of researchers in Visva Bharati University in India have given a new species of bacteria such a name. However, several Indian news sources revealed that the bacteria has actually been named ‘Pantoea Tagorei’ to pay homage to the poet.

At least two Bangladeshi news media outlets (1, 2) have published news on 22nd and 23rd December containing this headline. Based on this news, the information has gained traction on social media as well (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). DBC News in their report stated “A research team of six members from Visva-Bharati University in India has discovered a new species of bacteria. They have named it Rabindranath Tagore as a tribute to Rabindranath Tagore. This new species of bacteria supports plant growth.” This news cited the Indian Journal of Microbiology and The Economic Times as its sources. However, the headline of The Economic Times reads “Pantoea Tagorei: Visva Bharati researchers name bacteria after Rabindranth Tagore that are helpful for plants”. It further reports that a team of researchers from Visva Bharati, Kolkata, led by Bomba Dam, Assistant Professor at the Microbiology Laboratory in the Department of Botany, have identified a new species of bacteria with unique properties beneficial for plant growth. The bacteria has been named ‘Pantoea Tagorei’ as a tribute to Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who expressed deep interest in agriculture.

Apart from that, the article in the Indian Journal of Microbiology also stated that the bacteria newly discovered in the research conducted by six researchers Raju Biswas, Arijit Mishra, Sandip Ghosh, Abhinaba Chakraborty, Puja Mukherjee and Bomba Dam, belongs to the Pantoea genus and has been named “Pantoea Tagorei.” When asked about the reason behind such naming by the Indian Express news, Bomba Dam explained, “That’s the best way to honor Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and his son, Rathindranath Tagore’s agricultural pursuits. Tagore had sent his son to study agricultural science in Illinois, USA.”

However, the news published in Bangladeshi news media states that the bacteria has been named Rabindranath Tagore with no mention of the actual name, “Pantoea Tagorei”. This has created a lot of confusion leading to the matter being presented inaccurately on social media as well. The two posts shared on the Facebook pages of DBC News and Bangladesh Journal have been shared 69 and 44 times, respectively. This news was also seen to be shared on groups such as SSC Batch 2024, Medi Dream, Health Point BD. In addition to that, pages like Special BCS for Teachers, Aminul Sir, Bangla, Mohaiminul’s Planet, HSC to University Admission Test– which primarily share educational content- have also shared this misinformation as genuine information.