Hong Kong is to have a group of disease-causing bacteria named after it in recognition of a group of SAR microbiologists who identified them - the first such discovery in 20 years. Their find and the naming of the bacteria group - called Laribacter Hongkongensis - at the University of Hong Kong is a first for scientists in the territory. More than 100 people have been tested for exposure to the potentially fatal new group of bacteria to gauge how infectious it is, while medical experts are still uncertain how much of a health risk the bacteria pose. The microbiologists identified the bacteria in a 54-year-old liver patient early last year. The team named the strain found in the patient as HKU1. Medical experts in Switzerland also found the bacteria in three patients several months after the university's discovery. Experts there sent the sample to Hong Kong for confirmation. In Hong Kong, the patient had suffered from cirrhosis of the liver, caused by alcoholism, and was admitted to hospital with high fever and shortness of breath. The bacteria caused a life-threatening infection in his pleural cavity - the space in the thorax which contains the lungs. They also entered his bloodstream, causing the high fever. The patient recovered after taking antibiotics for a month. Dr Patrick Woo Chiu-yat, associate professor of microbiology at the university, said the presence of the bacteria in the bloodstream could have caused multiple organ failure and possibly death. Dr Woo said his team failed to identify the bacteria through ordinary tests. A later gene sequencing test was carried out but they still could not match the genes of thousands of other bacteria groups recorded on a gene database in the US. Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, director of infection control at the university, said it took on average 10 to 20 years for the medical profession to identify a new group of bacteria that was 'medically significant' - meaning it could cause diseases in humans. 'The finding of the same group of bacteria in Switzerland means it is not only happening in Hong Kong. More work has to be done to find out if it poses any public health hazard,' Professor Yuen said. 'In our history, we have never named a pathogenic bacteria. We feel pleased that we are able to do so for the first time.' Professor Yuen said his team ruled out that the bacteria were airborne, with transmission caused through oral contact with faeces. The team has tested more than 100 people to gauge the extent of the bacteria group's spread, including its sources, route of transmission and mortality rate. Those tested include the liver patient's family and colleagues and patients who stayed in the same hospital. Findings are not yet known.