In soil samples at Camp IV, researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder also found microbes associated with humans, such as Staphylococcus and Streptococcus
The microbes have arrived on top of the world. At the South Col, the last base camp from which to attempt the climb up to the 8,848 meters of Mount Everest, super-resistant bacteria have in fact been found, i.e. able to survive the extreme cold and very high altitudes. This was revealed by a study conducted by the American University of Colorado in Boulder and published in the journal Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, which highlighted how these microbial communities, probably left by mountaineers during the ascent but also arrived so high in soil particles carried by the windcan lie dormant in the ground for decades, if not centuries.
Thanks to the use of new generation techniques, researchers led by Nicholas Dragon managed to carry out genetic sequencing in soil samples taken in the vicinity of camp IV – where temperatures normally reach -33 and the altitude of 7,906 meters – thus discovering a diversified mix of bacteria, protists and fungi, including a combination of cosmopolitan taxa and specialized microorganisms often found at high altitudes, such as the genera Modestobacter and Naganishia, explained the authors. In the analyzed samples were also found microbes associated with humans, such as Staphylococcus and Streptococcus, which usually live on the skin, in the nose and in the oral cavity.
Despite the results obtained, according to the researchers there is no reason to worry. Most of the organisms found at the South Col in this study rarely, if ever, able to replicate. It is likely that the organisms we isolated and cultured only came out of dormancy due to the less extreme conditions of the laboratory environment, the researchers say. In other words, if the climbers get sick, it’s from the passing of germs between them and not from dormant microbes at Camp IV.
What could be more alarming instead is that microorganisms associated with humans, which have evolved to thrive in warm, moist environments such as the nose and mouth, are hardy enough to survive for long periods even in areas with such extreme environmental conditions, which could have implications for the potential for life beyond Earth. We could find life on other planets and we will have to be careful not to contaminate them, the authors concluded not surprisingly.
March 24, 2023 (change March 24, 2023 | 06:43 am)