Bacteria Dispersal Through Bubbles

Bursting bubbles launch bacteria from water to air (Study illuminates new mode of bacteria dispersal.)

Source: MIT News
November 15th, 2018


Water contaminated with bacteria can extend the longevity of a bubble’s time exposed to the above air surface and cause it to have more of a reactive pop when it bursts. Specifically, the secretions from bacteria were shown to extend lifetimes of contaminated bubbles on a water’s surface. This extended time can cause the bubble to throw up to ten times more droplets, at ten times smaller than their size otherwise, released ten times faster when it bursts. The main concern about this is that the smaller and lighter droplets can be more easily dispersed throughout the surrounding environment.

In class, we have briefly discussed bacteria as being a large part of the microbial world. We also dove into examining the black plague which was caused by a bacteria, Yersinia pestis. I think the focus of this article could actually have contributed to the spread of the black plague because there was likely lots of unsanitary conditions for water storage. The high exposure to contaminated water in the time of the black plague likely meant that the bubbles that were released from that water were able to disperse themselves very effectively. This could have increased the spread of the bacteria and the prevalence of the black plague.

I had honestly never considered the spread of microbes from bursting bubbles before I read this article. I find it interesting because this probably related to many areas of microbial spreading all over our planet. Microbes trapped in frozen areas in Alaska are likely bursting as melting continues to increase, and the contaminated areas in our state are probably consequently affected. I think it’s amazing that the small release of a minuscule bubble in water can make big differences in the dispersal of microbes throughout large areas.
The article cites a well-recognized scientific journal and includes a study done by researchers at MIT. The article seems to recognize where there is a lack of knowledge on the subject and even the mistake that led to the creation of the original study. I think it’s valuable that the article includes the thought process that led to the study because it makes the article more easy to follow and understand. The article is written in a great way to communicate with the public; there are helpful graphics and analogies with common day occurrences in many people’s lives.

My main question is: What can bacteria use as a food source while trapped in these bubbles? It seems like a very bare environment considering that the microbes can be trapped in these spaces for many years even.