Wildfire smoke microphone content can cause infectious diseases

Wild smoke contains microbes, which are often overlooked, but one that can have a significant impact on health.

In an article published December 18 in Science, Leda Kobziar and George Thompson called the scientific community ‘s attention to the health effects of wild smoke microphone content.

Smoky skies caused by wildfires are becoming a seasonal norm, especially in some parts of the United States and Australia. By 2020, wildfires in the Western U.S. have set new records and resulted in air quality standards that are extremely unhealthy or dangerous for several weeks in a row.

There is a good record that wild fire smoke can damage the heart and lungs. Allergic and infectious respiratory diseases, including asthma and bronchitis, are also damaged by exposure to smoke.

Health effects from the ingestion of wild smoke increase significantly in wildfires with high emissions and prolonged exposure. Nevertheless, the risk of infection of the respiratory tract is often monitored after this exposure. “

Leda Kobziar, Associate Professor of Wildfire Science, University of Idaho

What role do microbes in wild smoke play in the spread of disease?

Wildfire is a source for bioaerosol, airborne particles produced by fungal and bacterial cells and their metabolic products. Once suspended in the air, particles smaller than 5 μm can travel hundreds or even thousands of miles. Their movement depends on the behavior of fire and the position of the atmosphere. Finally, they are invested or imported.

Bacteria and fungi can be carried in these wildfire smoke emissions. Although microbial density in smoke is higher near the source of fire, these microbes can be active agents in transmitting infection. For example, coccidioidomycoses – a fungus that gets into the air when soils are disturbed – cause Valley fever, an infection that can be very serious.

“We don’t know how long and what microbes are transported in smoke,” said Thompson, an associate professor of Clinical Medicine at UC Davis. “Some microbes in the soil seem to suffer from, and even thrive under, high temperatures after wildfires.”

As Kobziar explained, “At the scale of a microbe, a fire behavior study has shown that heat is variable, so many microbes may not be affected by the high temperature for a long time. They may to be protected also from small accumulations of hateful material. “

Kobziar and Thompson proposed a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the nature of the connection between microbes, wild smoke and health. The complexity of the phenomenon requires the knowledge of scientists from different fields such as fire ecology, environmental microbiology, epidemiology, atmospheric sciences and public health and infectious disease.

“With longer wildfire seasons and higher trends, there is an urgency to work together in studying the behavior of the microbes that smoke is carrying and their impact on human health,” Thompson said. .


University of California – Davis Health

Magazine Reference:

Kobziar, LN & Thompson, GR (2020) Wild mist, potentially infectious agent. Science. doi.org/10.1126/science.abe8116.