Bacteria and Viruses Are Raining Down on Us All the Time

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

Thanks to Brilliant for supporting this episode
of SciShow. Go to 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 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 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]

100 thoughts on “Bacteria and Viruses Are Raining Down on Us All the Time

  1. Breathing "fresh air" makes us strong imo. Our body protects against most pathogens in the air (or they are mostly harmless). We have bacteria all around us after all. On our skin, in our bodies, we have entire ecosystems.

  2. Ironic she's talking about colds. EVERY time I see her, the first impression is that she has snot dripping out of her nose and it is glinting in the lights.
    Wonder if she knows this is the impression she gives every time someone sees her throughout her day?

  3. This means that people medieval people saying bad humors passed diseases along weren’t so stupid after all. The wind can carry disease. People must have instinctual knowledge of how illness spreads we just didn’t at the time have the microscopic technology now to detect this stuff. Makes you think 🤔

  4. This feels very biased against microbes. I think if they’ve always been there who are we to be mad at them when we find out they’re everywhere. Thats just how it is.

  5. So… I've been rained on by trillions of bacteria during my life, according to my best guesstimate. So, there is no reason to worry about it.

  6. So… I've been rained on by trillions of bacteria during my life, according to my best guesstimate. So, there is no reason to worry about it.

  7. So… I've been rained on by trillions of bacteria during my life, according to my best guesstimate. So, there is no reason to worry about it.

  8. * Germophobes left the chat * (and will get full body covered as well as will not leave their houses for the rest of their lives) after seeing this video and knowing that germs and pathogens such as bateria and viruses are somehow literally raining constantly ovee us all whethee they're harmless or not.

  9. This is the worst science news fact our germophobe fellows will ever knew and recieve. Fortunately I am not a germophobe, or else I don't know how to handle this fact.

  10. Bacteria don't just ride in on the rain, they make it rain

  11. Wow SciShow, fear mongering much?! "STAPH" is just the abbreviated name of the bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus and is a healthy part of the human microbiota. It grows naturally on the skin and upper respiratory tract – SciShow even did a freaking video talking about how it's a part of the microbiota. Germ theory and the mass antibacterial movement that accompanied it has resulted in a dangerous alteration of the bacteria and fungi that are symbiotic and crucial to a healthy life. No living thing, not humans or even trees, can live without these microorganisms. As the microbes die, so do we.

    Also, dessertification sounds delicious. You just need to extra 's', lol. 😋

  12. i havent been sick in 6-7 years and im not the most cleanly person, nor do i eat very healthily. it's a mentality and simply not caring whether you get sick and just thinking 'screw you sickness', i believe, has prevented me from being sick.

  13. This helps me understand some research on nicotine that I've read. Nicotine kills parasites. Before big companies destroyed how Tobacco grows, the longest living people in history smoked it. It helped keep them clean of all kinds of parasites that they breathed thru the air. Our brains knew this and rewarded us each time we used it.

  14. The Earth is not a sterile place lol. We're surrounded by pathogens all of the time, it's why we have an immune system. Dig down miles below the surface, go to the highest mountain, the hottest volcanic vent, and you find life.

  15. In there are often storms that carried dust from the Sahara to England, this was particularly bad in 2014 and caused me serious asthma, I assumed that this was due to the physical effects of the dust on my lungs, but I wonder if it also carried pathogens.

  16. At this point in my life I believe just about anything when is comes to micro-organisms. Can the eat electrity? Yes. Can they survive in space? For a limited time, yes. Can the ride the weather? Yes

  17. I had a scary thought; assuming a specific microbe carrying capacity for the atmosphere the decrease in biodiversity means a larger percentage of the microbes circulating will be pathogenic to us and the organisms we rely on. Wild Man Fischer had it right, "here we go, merry go, merry go round…"

  18. I'm waiting for someone to come out with "pure air" to breathe, like the bottled water scam. Only breathe air from a can, like a scuba tank. Think of the $ someone could make foisting this on a gullible public. 🙂

  19. Disliked for the annoying host. You know people don't like her, SciShow. Be sensible and give her some off-screen job!

  20. Weird request, but we always cover species we are destroying; could we check in on some species that are handling our presence just fine? Or something hopeful? I know we as humans destroyed megafauna, dodos and the ice caps, but hearing that something would live on beyond us would be nice.

  21. OMG. Now she has TWO rings in her nose! Does she REALLY think that nose jewelry is in any way attractive???!!!! It's DISGUSTING.

  22. If you like pina colada
    Catching colds in the rain
    I have seen it on Sci Show
    Amoebas eating your brain
    Making love in the dunes at midnight
    Will give you Kawasaki disease
    Down the cape after a storm the air is full of
    Bacteria and viruses

  23. Fun little tangent anekdote: At the end of Roskilde Festival 2012, a group of students from DTU (Danish technic university) and Copenhagen University traced the so-called urine-cloud (dust that has been peed on extensively by drunk festival goers, then dried by sun, peed on some more, sundried again, on and on, and finally is wafted up into the air and blown skywards) in the following months, eventually settling in northeastern Canada. Hahaha.

  24. You are not safe. You have never been safe. You will never be safe. Anyone telling you they can keep you safe is lying straight to your face, to what end I do not know or care, but they are lying nonetheless. Nobody, and nothing, will ever be able to protect you, not scientists, not the doctor, not the government and definitely not the police. And if you ever "feel" safe, that is when you are at your most vulnerable. You are under constant and never ending attack, from inside, from outside, from the below and from above, from every direction. You are not guaranteed to live till tomorrow, or even the very next moment. You are fragile and you are weak. You will die, that is guaranteed.

    Have a nice day. You better try your hardest to make every single moment nice. For all you know, you will not be here tomorrow. I hope for your sake you are at peace with your life. Wouldn't it suck to die with regrets? So you better experience, to the fullest, that one life you have, while you can.

  25. 1:35 "…these globe-trotting microbes can spread diseases around the globe."
    I'm not going to say why this line of dialogue was redundant, I'm just going to place it here.

  26. HOWEVER, the number of living microbes that you inhale in "fresh" air as compared to the number you get when you touch various surfaces and then place your hands on your food, mouth, eyes, or braised skin, is it so small in comparison as to not be of any practical meaning. Although if some intercontinental traveling microbes land in a particularly friendly environment that is most conducive to its growth, then we may have some serious issues.

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