More Dust

Precht, Bill Bprecht at
Mon Jul 2 00:17:22 EDT 2001

Dear Coral list:

Thought many of you would find the following of some interest...


African Dust Brings Germs Across Ocean

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Dust from the African deserts is bringing germs and fungi
across the Atlantic.
Researchers who tested samples of the dust collected last summer warn that
``pathogenic microbes associated with dust clouds may pose a risk to
ecosystem and human health.''

While windborne transport of African dust to North and South America long
has been known, scientists thought that few microbes would survive the trip
because of exposure to ultraviolet radiation in the atmosphere.

Researchers now believe the dust clouds themselves block enough of the
light to protect bacteria and other microbes during the 5- to 7-day

The findings of the group, led by Dale W. Griffin of the U.S. Geological
Survey, are reported in the June issue of the journal Aerobiologia.


``For most healthy individuals, I don't think it's a problem,'' said
Griffin, a public health and environmental microbiologist.

In addition, he said, some 25 percent of the microbes were known plant
pathogens that affect elm trees or such crops as peaches, cotton and rice,
he said.

Joseph M. Prospero, director of the Cooperative Institute for Marine and
Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami said his research in
Barbados also has seen fungi and bacteria associated with African dust.


Using NASA satellites to track the African dust clouds, they were able to
take air samples both on clear days and days with dust plumes affecting the

On the dusty days there averaged 158 bacteria, 213 viruses and 201
fluorescent bacteria in about a quart of air. By comparison, the same
volume of air on a clear day averaged 18 bacteria, 18 viruses and none of
the fluorescent bacteria.

Other members of the research team included Jay R. Herman of the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration and Eugene A. Shinn of the Geological
Survey. <end>

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