It sounds like a scene out of the movie Contagion, but a new study that has just emerged out of the University of British Columbia has shown that billions of microorganisms have been raining down across the Earth every day and have been using a sophisticated transportation system for their movements.
The basis of the study from three separate universities was why are genetically similar viruses showing up in varying locations across the world? The reason they worked out is that these microorganisms are able to hitch a ride on airborne particles and then deposit themselves somewhere across the globe.
It’s the rate of viruses being dropped on us that really shocked them. The scientists managed to pitch a study camp high above the Earth’s weather system around 2,500-300 meters high, in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Spain. There they found an enormous amount of bacteria falling on us, really enormous, in fact over 800 million viruses and tens of millions of bacteria being deposited per square meter per day. To put that into perspective that’s 25 viruses for each person in Canada said the lead author of the study virologist Curtis Suttle. Their studies showed that everything from sea spray to dust act as vehicles for their travels.
“Roughly 20 years ago we began finding genetically similar viruses occurring in very different environments around the globe,” says Curtis Suttle, senior author on the new study. “This preponderance of long-residence viruses traveling the atmosphere likely explains why — it’s quite conceivable to have a virus swept up into the atmosphere on one continent and deposited on another.”
However, there’s no need to panic just yet, we’ve been living with the diverse amount of viruses for quite some time now, and the study even shows that they’re helpful in creating a healthy biodiversity by aiding our ecosystem. More info on the study can be found here.