Saturday, July 20, 2013

Climate Change and Super Bugs

It appears that climate change/global warming is causing an outbreak of opportunistic infectious diseases from microbes, bacteria and fungi. Traveling with the dust clouds raised by desertification and air pollution, they rain down on us and begin to take up residence in our built environment.. The dangers of these infectious bacteria and fungi is that they collect in the indoor environment and are adapting. 

The result is increasing outbreaks of super bugs, fed by over use of antibiotics as well as improper disinfection. They originate in the dust clouds produced by industrial pollution, these clouds of dust rise into the higher earth atmosphere where bacterial and fungal microbes  collect and continue to mutate. These dust clouds return to earth to spread new mutated microbes into the air we breath. 

The super-bugs continue to mutate as they build resistance to antibiotics and disinfectants. I will go into more detail on this problem in a later blog post.

In the study below  Cryptococcus is a form of fungi that is mutating as a result of living in the earth atmosphere in dust clouds.

Unlike diseases transmitted strictly via an animal vector or from person-to-person, the ubiquity of opportunistic pathogens like Cryptococcus presents a new and daunting set of challenges for scientists and medical professionals. Any organism small enough to be lifted into the air has the potential to achieve a cosmopolitan distribution, provided it can survive where it lands. In the cool climates of a temperate zone, untold numbers of potentially pathogenic bacteria and fungi may subsist—but fail to thrive—just below the level of detection. Microbial ecologists have a saying for this: Everything is everywhere, but the environment selects.

Biologists now recognize that this dogma is only partly true, particularly in the face of Earth's warming climate. For example, over 50% of Kazakhstan's croplands have been sucked dry, while the Sahara expands into Nigeria and Ghana at a rate of 3,500 km2 per year. This global process of desertification is increasing the number of dust storms that ferry microbes across continents and oceans.

Meanwhile, in the temperate zone, rising temperatures have rendered some regions more hospitable to colonization by microbial hitchhikers arriving on soils from tropical climes. This new fungal strain cropping up in people and other animals with healthy immune systems may have been a new arrival to Vancouver Island, or it may have always been tucked away in some hidden valley for many years, until one balmy summer triggered its unfortunate bloom. And there are hints that it is steadily furthering its progress. "The question we've been asking over the last 10 years," Hoang says, "Is it going to get to the mainland and will it spread across the Pacific Northwest?"

A key moment in aeromicrobiology, or the study of airborne microbes, came in 1933, when Fred Meier of the US Department of Agriculture convinced Charles Lindberg to collect samples during an arctic flight from Maine to Denmark. Upon finding everything from fungal spores to algae and diatoms, Meier wrote, "the potentialities of world-wide distribution of spores of fungi and other organisms caught up and carried abroad by transcontinental winds may be of tremendous consequence."

We now know that particles of dust, organic matter, and aerosolized water droplets support hardy communities of bacteria, fungi, and viruses—a mere 0.08% of which have ever been cultured.Some 10,000 bacteria are present in every gram of airborne sediment, and the atmosphere contains at least one billion metric tons of dust.That translates to a quintillion dust-borne bacteria—enough, according to Dale Griffin of the USDA office in St. Petersburg, Fla., "to form a microbial bridge between Earth and Jupiter."

Over the course of five days in 2001, NASA tracked a large dust cloud that originated in the Gobi Desert as it moved east across the Pacific, North America, and the Atlantic, before petering out over Europe. Frequently, during African dust storms, a smoke-like strand is visible in satellite photos swirling off the continent, and looming over Italy, Spain, and southern France.

One of the most surprising new findings about airborne microbes is that far from being passive passengers of the wind, some are truly adapted to life in the mesosphere—70 km above the earth's surface—where they must constantly repair their DNA following bombardment by direct UV radiation. Or take a 2008 study that found that airborne microbes haunting Singapore shopping malls are not a random sample of what's outside, but are specialized for survival in the indoor air environment.



john garry said...

nice information thanks for sharing with us

wow9gamer said...

We now know that particles of dust, organic matter, and aerosolized water droplets support hardy communities of bacteria, fungi, and viruses
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