Centuries of bacteria preserved on Mount Everest: study
Even at thousands of feet high, germs are unavoidable, according to new research from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Near the world’s highest peak above sea level at Mount Everest, researchers have detected human-associated microbes from coughs and sneezes that could have left traces of human bacteria for centuries.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, analyzed samples from the South Col, 7,925 meters above sea level, where nature explorers set up their last camp before climbing. to the top of the mountain. Researchers were able to find microbial DNA related to humans like staph, which can cause staph infections and food poisoning. They also found strep bacteria, which are often associated with strep throat.
“There is a fixed human signature in Everest’s microbiome,” one of the researchers and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, Steve Schmidt, said in a statement.
Using genetic sequencing technology to conclusively check DNA samples on dead and living microbes, researchers were surprised to find bacteria that normally live in warm, moist environments like the human nose and mouth able to withstand the icy and harsh conditions on the mountain.
Additionally, they were able to find organisms previously found in the Andes and Antarctica, including a genus of fungi called Naganishia, which can withstand freezing temperatures and UV rays. While most microbes don’t survive the cold terrain and high UV light of the mountain, the researchers believe that Naganishia can still grow with water and sunlight to get just enough warmth to survive.
It’s not the first time that man-made tracks mark the famous mountain trail. The increase in tourism has also increased the amount of litter left behind by climbers, as some struggling to complete the climb often leave behind their tents when it is too cold or difficult to dig, or let their human waste fall into the crevices of the mountain.
There are also concerns about the effect of climate change on the mountain, as melting glaciers have caused the popular starting point for the trek to South Base Camp to move lower after 2-year-old ice 000 years began to melt.
The researchers hope their findings will help us not only understand how humans can further impact the planet’s environment, but potentially how humans can affect the environment of other planets and moons.
“We could find life on other planets and cold moons,” Schmidt said. “We will have to be careful not to contaminate them with ours.”
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