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While you probably aren’t going to get sick from just being outside in all this microbe rain, pathogenic organisms ARE raining down on us all the time, everywhere!

Hosted by: Olivia Gordon

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Sources:
https://www.wired.com/2015/04/atlas-bacteria-fungi-breathe-every-day/
https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1749-6632.1980.tb18922.x
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.471.5682&rep=rep1&type=pdf
https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-phyto-080614-115942?journalCode=phyto
https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/53/5/469/241414
https://www.nature.com/articles/srep00152
https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4433/3/1/87/htm

Images:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Staphylococcus_aureus_01.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Soil_erosion,_Southfield_-_geograph.org.uk_-_367917.jpg
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/winter-woman-sneezes-gm518831890-90249437
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/global-contamination-gm824053744-133530333
https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/bacteria-germ-stomach-viruses-biological-allergy-microbes-bacterium-epidemiology-gm1134910475-301735492
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/garden-soil-texture-background-top-view-cut-out-gm1145184738-308162785
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/autumn-background-gm1161394969-318230082
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/young-fresh-green-leaves-in-springtime-closeup-of-beech-leaves-gm1127549747-297219823
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/smoke-and-fire-gm184909824-1943247
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/rainy-day-in-summer-gm181057539-25661340
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/bacteria-with-fur-closeup-gm173023937-7289219
https://www.istockphoto.com/vector/planet-earth-gm1124415186-295159942
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/super-typhoon-yutu-strongest-storm-on-earth-in-2018-satellite-view-elements-of-this-gm1059301550-283139332
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/corals-beginning-to-bleach-in-indonesia-gm1174530209-326696673
Thanks to Brilliant for supporting this episode of SciShow.

Go to Brilliant.org/SciShow to learn more. [♩INTRO]. Growing up, you may have heard that you can catch a cold in the rain.

And it turns out there’s some truth to that idea. See, pathogenic organisms stuff like viruses and bacteria that can give plants and animals diseases do rain down on us all the time, with or without the help of water. But the situation isn’t so dire that you’re likely to get sick from going outside… yet?

According to a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we may inhale thousands of microbes per hour when we’re breathing in “fresh air”. These organisms come from almost anything you can think of: the soil, bodies of water, even the surfaces of plants and buildings. And they’re not necessarily from the immediate vicinity.

Winds, splashing water, rising smoke, and many human activities can dislodge microorganisms from their dwelling places and launch them into the air. Once afloat, they can snag onto small particles like dust and travel way up into the atmosphere, into a region known as the planetary boundary layer. And there, they can move thousands of kilometers with the air masses they’re suspended in, across whole continents and oceans.

Eventually, though, they fall back down, either in rain or when the particles they’re associated with finally settle. And scientists estimate that hundreds of millions of viruses and tens of millions of bacteria rain down in this manner on every square meter of this planet every day. That’s... not the worst part.

You see, scientists say these globe-trotting microbes can spread diseases around the globe. For example, in 2004, a pathogen that infects plants traveled from Asia to the United States thanks to a hurricane. And a 2003 paper published in BioScience suggested that the global transport of dust could be sprinkling pathogens onto coral reefs.

Poor coral reefs just can’t catch a break, can they? Luckily, if you’re a human, you probably don’t have too much to worry about. Most of the microorganisms moving around this way are considered harmless. ...

Though, not all of them. Scientists have found potential pathogens like Staph in the dust that settles after storms and during dust events. And in some cases, they think wind patterns can explain disease outbreaks.

For example, in 2011, researchers found that epidemics of Kawasaki disease correlated with wind currents that swept from Asia to the north Pacific. Kawasaki disease is an illness that causes inflammation in blood vessels, particularly in kids. And the weird thing is, we don’t actually know which pathogen is responsible.

So the wind pattern connection, while not definitive, could be an important clue for medical researchers trying to better understand the disease. Also... even if there’s no immediate link between human disease-causing pathogens and the billions upon billions of microbes falling from the sky every day, there could be soon. See, this whole situation is probably getting worse with climate change.

Scientists think it’s likely that even more dust and microbes will float into our atmosphere in the coming decades thanks to things like increased desertification and more intense weather events. So, while you might not catch a cold or any other disease from the rain in the near future, the possibility is only increasing. Researchers have to use a lot of really complex math to figure out how pathogens move around in the clouds and how that might change in the future.

And that math is something everyone can learn with Brilliant.org. You see, Brilliant offers dozens of courses that cover topics in science, engineering, computer science, and math. And their Differential Equations 2 course dives into the hardcore math needed to predict weather patterns, as well as other kinds of scientific modeling.

With a premium subscription, you’ll get access to it and all their other courses, as well as engaging Daily Challenges which help you practice the skills you’re learning. And right now, the first two hundred people to sign up at Brilliant.org/SciShow will get 20% off an annual premium subscription. So check it out!

And let us know if you learn anything really cool in the comments. [♩OUTRO].