Rain cleanses and purifies, or so we thought. A new study proves that this notion is not entirely true as rain can spread bacteria.
A new study gives us a peek at what happens in the world of microorganisms and how rain can actually help spread diseases.
How Can Rain Spread Bacteria?
Experts from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT gives us a 4K-esque picture of what happens when raindrops hit dry soil stuffed with bacteria. During a light rain on a temperate day, and when raindrops hit the soil at the right speed, aerosols or sprays of mist are released. Each of these very tiny droplets carries thousands of bacteria up into the air and can travel wherever the wind will bring it. The microorganisms riding the mist can survive up to an hour.
The bacterial transfer will depend on how many bubbles are formed inside a raindrop. With more bubbles formed, the greater amount of bacteria can be transferred through bubble bursting.
If you can't see the picture in your head, imagine when you pour soda into a glass and you see that fizz on top. Better yet, watch this video of raindrops spreading soil bacteria far and wide:
"Imagine you had a plant infected with a pathogen in a certain area, and that pathogen spread to the local soil. We've now found that rain could further disperse it. Manmade droplets from sprinkler systems could also lead to this type of dispersal. So this [study] has implications for how you might contain a pathogen," said Cullen Buie, one of the authors of the study and associate professor at MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Why Should You Care About Rain Spreading Bacteria?
Imagine the implications. Aerosols can provide the ride pathogens need to spread deadly diseases. These diseases can be spread to humans, animals, and plants. Based on estimates of experts, the number of bacteria that can be dispersed by raindrops may range from 10,000 trillion to 800,000 trillion. Yes, they put it that way because there will be just a lot of zeroes that will make the picture scarier.
No need to panic yet, as experts say more studies are needed to understand how aerosol generation by rain can lead to major dispersal of bacteria that may spell doom for living creatures.