in clouds could play a crucial role in the spread
of disease and in the formation of rain drops, scientists
The radical theories about nanobacteria – micro-organisms
considerably smaller than ordinary bacteria - in
clouds are published in two recent articles in the
Journal of Proteome Research by Dr Andrei P. Sommer
of the University of Ulm, Germany, and Professor
Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff University, UK.
They say nanobacteria are
now accepted as being widely prevalent in the terrestrial
environment and that their evidence is compelling
for the existence of these nano-organisms, even
in the stratosphere. In humans, nanobacteria have
now been identified on four continents, they add.
Dr Sommer and Professor Wickramasinghe
further suggest that nanobacteria's involvement
in several serious diseases such as the formation
kidney stones, heart disease, and HIV is also slowly
being recognised by the scientific community.
"Experiments have shown
that nanobacteria are excreted from the body in
urine and their dispersal from the ground into the
atmosphere and stratosphere appears to be inevitable,"
said Dr Sommer.
The scientists argue that
their occurrence in clouds could play a crucial
role in the global dispersal of infective agents,
and might also play a prominent role in the nucleation
of cloud drops.
"This happens because
nanobacteria, lifted from the ground by winds, could
transit between the high humidity region of the
clouds and the relatively dry inter-cloud regions,
leading to oscillations between a dormant state
and one of activation," explained Professor
Wickramasinghe. "Remnants of a sticky protein
(slime) coating nanobacteria makes them act as extremely
efficient cloud condensation nuclei, with a tendency
to aggregate to clusters upon contact."
Their work corroborates the
findings of Ruprecht Jaenicke, of the Institute
for Atmospheric Physics at Mainz University, Germany,
on bioaerosols (airborne contaminants) and proteins
in the atmosphere reported in New Scientist (31
March) and Science (1 April). The contribution of
nanobacteria to pathogenic bioaerosols, in the view
of the authors, must overwhelm all other types of
biological particles in the atmosphere.
Contact: Professor Chandra