Infectious microbes might be able to travel in wildfire smoke, researchers say

Bacteria and fungi are both ‘aerosolized’ and can be transported vast distances in smoke plumes, writes Harry Cockburn

Harry Cockburn
Thursday 17 December 2020 19:00
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<p>A smoke-filled sky at midday over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on 9 September.</p>

A smoke-filled sky at midday over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on 9 September.

The number and extent of wildfires in areas such as the Amazon, California, Australia and even Siberia, is growing, and the smoke they are producing could provide a medium by which infectious microbes can be transmitted to humans, new research suggests.

Both bacteria and fungi are transmitted in plumes of wildfire smoke, and the risk to human health posed by these living microbes is not well known, according to US scientists.

These particles become aerosolized due to the burning of materials such as soils, detritus and wood, and then become transported in smoke plumes.

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