It seems like everyday we hear about another outbreak of something. Many of these outbreaks are of diseases of old, like mumps and measles, and others
are fairly new, like the CRE infections spreading across the United States. This chapter of Fever Rising takes a look at the many bacterial and viral
infections that are out there and why methane gas may be responsible for the upticks in disease over the past few years. Here are two links first
though. The first one is the last chapter and then if you click into the volcanoes thread, you can find the links to the first ten threads in this
series of chapters from my book.
Why an increase in Mass Animal Die-offs
How methane gas is responsible for increasing volcanoes
Chapter 15: The Dangerous Gas Theory and Disease Outbreaks
You may be asking yourself how diseases and pandemics have anything to do with dangerous gases and atmospheric heating. It’s simple really. There
are various types of microbes that eat methane. They live deep underground and they live 30,000 feet into the air. Basically, they are everywhere and
they feed off methane hydrates.
The theory goes something like this. The more methane increases it becomes a feeding frenzy for the microbes. What happens when these microbes have
more than enough to eat? They multiply. As methane release escalates, there is naturally going to be a rapid increase in the microbes that feed.
Through the evolution of bacteria over millions of years you can expect that other species of bacteria can also experience growth. As one species of
bacteria rapidly increases, others will follow. I propose in this theory that as the microbes continuously feed on the increased methane hydrates,
other bacteria are following the lead, thus, literally thousands of species of bacteria and viruses are experiencing phenomenal growth all over the
To back this idea up, let’s first take a look at what bacteria really are. Bacteria are made up of the same genetic stuff that we are, only we have
our DNA stored in the nucleus of the cytoplasm of a cell, while bacteria DNA isn’t stored in the nucleus. Their DNA is stored in the cytoplasm
without a nucleus and that gives way for genetic mutation. The bacteria are made up of a genetic material called plasmids, which are small ring-like
structures that float in the cell. They are separate from the chromosomal DNA and each has a specific job. One plasmid will cause the production of a
chemical which negates antibiotic a, while another plasmid will cause the production of a chemical which negates antibiotic b. Then there is
horizontal and vertical transfer of the plasmids to other bacteria. Vertical transfer is when a bacterium transfers the plasmid through its offspring,
but it’s the horizontal transfer that may be responsible for the rapid rise in disease. This is when a plasmid replicates itself independently of
the host cell and a single bacterium transfers a copy of that plasmid to every bacterium within range, and this includes bacterium of another
If you’ve followed news headlines over the past two years then you’ve noticed a rise in disease outbreaks or resistance to drugs to fight these
diseases. You’re not imagining things if you’ve questioned whether these diseases seem to be getting stronger. The flu virus that normally lasted
less than a week now persists for two to three weeks even four weeks at times as was my case in December, 2013.
Let’s take a look at the microbes that feed off methane. These are called methanotrophs. There are two separate groups of methanotrophs, those that
feed off oxygen in the atmosphere (aerobic) or those that thrive in the absence of oxygen underground (anaerobic).
Aerobic methanotrophs are usually found in soils near methane-rich environments, such as oceans, landfills, underground environments, mud and bogs,
and rice paddies.
A March 24, 2010 article that Nature.com published found that a new species of methane-eating bacteria lives in environments without oxygen and
produce their own. The article, “Methane-eating microbes make their own oxygen,” authored by Amanda Leigh Mascarelli, stated the new bacteria
survives by producing and “breathing” its own oxygen.
“The oxygen-producing bacterium, provisionally named Methylomirabilis oxyfera, grows in a layer of methane-rich but oxygen-poor mud at the bottom of
rivers and lakes. The microbes live on a diet of methane and nitrogen oxides, such as nitrite and nitrate. These nitrogen-containing compounds are
especially abundant in sediment contaminated by agricultural runoff.”
Prior to this discovery, there were only three known pathways that bacteria could produce oxygen. Those were photosynthesis, bacteria reduction of
chlorates(ClO3– and ClO4–) and the enzymatic conversion of reactive oxygen species. Now, a new pathway is known where microbes extract energy fom
methane through a chemical process linked to dentrification, which releases nitrogen and oxygen from nitrogen oxides.
This new bacteria survives in methane-rich areas that are can’t support other bacteria. It does this by combining two molecules of nitric oxide to
form nitrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is then used to metabolize methane to produce water and carbon dioxide.
The only two known types of methane-consuming bacteria before this discovery lived in either the absence of oxygen (anaerobic methanotrophs) or
exploit oxygen from the atmosphere (aerobic methanotrophs).
The Nature.com article concludes by talking about the evolution of methane-eating bacteria and which one came first, the aerobic methanotrophs that
scientists know so much about, or these newly-discovered guys. Some of them worry though that this new species may have been born recently due to the
increase in these methane-rich environments that may have been produced by man.
Either way, there are methane-eating microbes everywhere especially in the present day with the amount of methane to feed the hungry little buggers.
To actually have bacteria that can thrive without ever having any oxygen at all shows the tenacity of these bugs. And if that’s not tenacious
enough, here is another eye-opening article that describes the discovery of bacteria floating in the atmosphere at 30,000 feet.
A group of scientists hitched a ride on NASA aircraft nine times to sample air before, after and during hurricanes Earl and Karl in 2010. The group
flew six miles above the surface, into the upper troposphere, where they ran outside air over a series of filters capturing material from an average
of 212 cubic feet of ambient air.
Sky-high bacteria could affect climate, scientists say
Los Angeles Times, Jan. 28, 2013
By Amina Khan
The researchers focused on a ribosomal RNA gene called SSU rRNA, which can reliably identify bacterial species. They calculated that there were
about 144 bacterial cells per cubic foot of air.
The bacteria accounted for 20% of the particles in their size range — stuff that scientists had assumed was just sea salt and dust.
"We were surprised," Nenes said.
The microbial populations were very different before and after a storm, Nenes said; that makes sense, given that hurricanes have the potential to kick
a fresh batch of bugs into the air.