Nav: Home

The dust storm microbiome

June 27, 2017

Israel is subjected to sand and dust storms from several directions: northeast from the Sahara, northwest from Saudi Arabia and southwest from the desert regions of Syria. The airborne dust carried in these storms affects the health of people and ecosystems alike. New research at the Weizmann Institute of Science suggests that part of the effect might not be in the particles of dust but rather in bacteria that cling to them, traveling many kilometers in the air with the storms.

Some of these bacteria might be pathogenic - harmful to us or the environment - and a few of them also carry genes for antibiotic resistance. Others may induce ecosystem functions such as nitrogen fixation. Prof. Yinon Rudich and his research group, including postdoctoral fellow Dr. Daniela Gat and former research student Yinon Mazar, in Weizmann's Earth and Planetary Sciences Department investigated the genetics of the windborne bacteria arriving along with the dust.

"In essence, we investigated the microbiome of windborne dust," says Rudich. "The microbiome of a dust storm originating in the Sahara is different from one blowing in from the Saudi or Syrian deserts, and we can see the fit between the bacterial population and the environmental conditions existing in each area."

The researchers found that during a dust storm the concentration of bacteria and the number of bacterial species present in the atmosphere rise sharply, so people walking outdoors in these storms are exposed to many more bacteria than usual.

Rudich and his team then explored the genes in these bacteria, checking for antibiotic resistance -- a trait that can arise owing to elevated use of antibiotics but also naturally, especially in soil bacteria. Antibiotic resistance has been defined by the World Health Organization as one of the primary global health challenges of the twenty-first century, and its main driver is the overuse of antibiotics. But bacteria can pass on the genes for antibiotic resistance, so any source of resistance is concerning. How many different genes for antibiotic resistance come to Israel from the various dust storms, and how prevalent are these genes?

Rudich says that the study enabled the researchers to identify a "signature" for each source of bacteria based on the prevalence of antibiotic resistant genes, which revealed whether the genes were local or imported from distant deserts. "We found that as more 'mixing' occurs between local dust and that which comes from far off, the lower the contribution of the imported antibiotic resistance genes." In other words, antibiotic resistance coming from Africa or Saudi Arabia is still a very minor threat compared to that caused and spread by human activity, especially animal husbandry. Also participating in this research were Dr. Eddie Cytryn of the Volcani Center and Prof. Yigal Erel of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

City air not set to improve

Urban air pollution is attributed, to a large extent, to emissions from transportation. Prof. Rudich and Staff Scientist Dr. Michal Pardo-Levin ask how these sources contribute to air pollution. Their findings show that pollution that does not come from the combustion engine but rather is released from the friction of the vehicle's tires on the road and from braking systems can lead to serious health effects upon inhalation. That means that even if we manage to significantly reduce our cars' tailpipe emissions, city air will still be polluted, to a large extent, with these other substances. And since the friction of tires and brakes are necessary for driving, reducing their emissions could be much harder.
-end-
Prof. Yinon Rudich's research is supported by the Helen and Martin Kimmel Award for Innovative Investigation; the Dr. Scholl Center for Water and Climate, which he heads; the Sussman Family Center for the Study of Environmental Sciences, which he heads; the de Botton Center for Marine Science; the Adelis Foundation; the Henri Gutwirth Fund for Research; the estate of David Levinson; and the estate of Olga Klein Astrachan.

The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, is one of the world's top-ranking multidisciplinary research institutions. Noted for its wide-ranging exploration of the natural and exact sciences, the Institute is home to scientists, students, technicians and supporting staff. Institute research efforts include the search for new ways of fighting disease and hunger, examining leading questions in mathematics and computer science, probing the physics of matter and the universe, creating novel materials and developing new strategies for protecting the environment.

Weizmann Institute of Science

Related Bacteria Articles:

How bacteria fertilize soya
Soya and clover have their very own fertiliser factories in their roots, where bacteria manufacture ammonium, which is crucial for plant growth.
Bacteria might help other bacteria to tolerate antibiotics better
A new paper by the Dynamical Systems Biology lab at UPF shows that the response by bacteria to antibiotics may depend on other species of bacteria they live with, in such a way that some bacteria may make others more tolerant to antibiotics.
Two-faced bacteria
The gut microbiome, which is a collection of numerous beneficial bacteria species, is key to our overall well-being and good health.
Microcensus in bacteria
Bacillus subtilis can determine proportions of different groups within a mixed population.
Right beneath the skin we all have the same bacteria
In the dermis skin layer, the same bacteria are found across age and gender.
Bacteria must be 'stressed out' to divide
Bacterial cell division is controlled by both enzymatic activity and mechanical forces, which work together to control its timing and location, a new study from EPFL finds.
How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.
The bacteria building your baby
Australian researchers have laid to rest a longstanding controversy: is the womb sterile?
Hopping bacteria
Scientists have long known that key models of bacterial movement in real-world conditions are flawed.
Bacteria uses viral weapon against other bacteria
Bacterial cells use both a virus -- traditionally thought to be an enemy -- and a prehistoric viral protein to kill other bacteria that competes with it for food according to an international team of researchers who believe this has potential implications for future infectious disease treatment.
More Bacteria News and Bacteria Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Our Relationship With Water
We need water to live. But with rising seas and so many lacking clean water – water is in crisis and so are we. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around restoring our relationship with water. Guests on the show include legal scholar Kelsey Leonard, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, and community organizer Colette Pichon Battle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#569 Facing Fear
What do you fear? I mean really fear? Well, ok, maybe right now that's tough. We're living in a new age and definition of fear. But what do we do about it? Eva Holland has faced her fears, including trauma and phobia. She lived to tell the tale and write a book: "Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Uncounted
First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all. Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote. Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it's not a state, and it wasn't until the 23rd Amendment that its people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role. Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further? This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari. Check out Latif Nasser's new Netflix show Connected here. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.