Research, Technology

How climbers 'contaminate' Mount Everest with their bacteria

Everest is the highest mountain in the world andclimbing to its top is an honor for every self-respecting climber. Including repeated ascents, this mountain has been conquered 11,341 times throughout history. Climbing to a height of 8,849 meters is given to people with great difficulty, because with each border there is less and less oxygen. At an altitude of more than 8 thousand meters, the "death zone" begins, where the human body begins to slowly die - this is accompanied by thickening of the blood, swelling of the lungs and brain, hallucinations and other deadly phenomena. But, despite all these difficulties, most climbers manage to conquer the summit. After overcoming all the difficulties, they go down and take with them only pride and a sense of satisfaction. At the same time, they leave behind piles of garbage and, as it turned out, bacteria.

Bacteria found on Mount Everest that normally live inside the human body

Interesting fact: The highest mountain Everest is known by several names at once. In Nepalese, the name of the mountain sounds like Sagarmatha, and in Tibetan - like Chomolungma.

Bacteria on Mount Everest

When climbers climb Mount Everestsoutheast ridge from Nepal, they make several stops. The last camp is set up at an altitude of 7906 meters, on the South Col, where there is little snow due to the constantly blowing wind. The air temperature in this place rarely rises above -10 degrees Celsius and, despite the fact that it is considered a vacation spot, the conditions there are extremely extreme.

South Col of Mount Everest

Recently, a group of scientists led by a microbiologistNicholas Dragone collected soil samples from the South Col of Mount Everest. They wanted to find out if microbes could live in such an extreme place. It turned out that yes - when they studied soil samples in the laboratory, they found staphylococci and streptococci, which are usually found in the nasal and oral cavities of a person.

Staphylococci under the microscope

Conquer Everest: how to get to the highest point on the planet?

What is the temperature on Everest

According to scientists, these microbes could end up onsuch a high altitude in only one way - they were brought with them by climbers. They could get into the soil when people coughed or blew their nose. Previously, scientists have studied soil taken in the Andes and Antarctica, and microbes were also found there. But only Everest turned out to have bacteria that are so closely related to humans.

We assume that if we take samples of the earthin the areas of the mountain most used by people, we will be able to find even more evidence of human microbial impact on the environment, the authors of the study shared.

Once in the extreme conditions of Mount Everest,staphylococci and streptococci fall into a kind of hibernation. When scientists found them in the soil in the comfort of a laboratory, the bacteria were already active. In July 2022, it became known that Mount Everest was gradually getting warmer - a record high temperature of -1.4 degrees Celsius was recorded on the South Col. Based on this, the researchers believe that in the future, the microbes brought by people will feel great even on Everest - the conditions will no longer be as harsh as before.

Bacteria left by climbers are unlikely to harm the environment

Bacteria on other planets

Hardly detected staphylococci and streptococciwill be able to harm Mount Everest in some way. The discovery made is interesting to completely different scientists - they are convinced that people are able to “infect” even the most extreme places with microbes. This means that when astronauts fly to Mars or another planet, they will be able to bring a lot of microbes with them. To spread them across a completely unfamiliar world, it will be enough for them to sneeze or blow their nose. Although, it is likely that microbes will be able to move to another planet even after a person touches a pebble or other surface.

Scientists are sure that microbes will fly to Mars and other planets along with people

It will be impossible to prevent this.Therefore, the astronauts of the future will simply have to be on the alert so as not to take the microorganisms they brought with them for alien life. Maybe someday there will be news that humanity has finally proved the existence of life on other planets, but then it turns out that this “life” simply flew in with them from Earth.

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Finally, it should be noted that at the topEverest is not only bacteria. There you can find plants, as well as some species of animals. If interested, read our article "What animals live on Everest - the highest point on Earth."