Would extraterrestrial bacteria be dangerous to us?

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Jitro
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03 Nov 2012, 7:32 pm

Would extraterrestrial bacteria be dangerous to us if we physically came in contact with such?



dajand8
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03 Nov 2012, 8:04 pm

It could be!



cathylynn
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03 Nov 2012, 8:16 pm

it wouldn't have evolved to be able to live in us. it would have to be an incredibly lucky bacterium to be able to affect us.



ebec11
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03 Nov 2012, 8:37 pm

If it managed to survive on Earth, it would if it was harmful because we would have no immunity or previous exposure to it.



naturalplastic
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03 Nov 2012, 8:53 pm

Pathogens are like highly skiled jewel thieves. They have to be extremely adapted to infecting the host organism. So an alien bacteria would likely be harmless. A human would more likely to catch Dutch Elm Disease from a tree than to catch a disease from an alien bacteria because the alien microbe would be so ill suited to infecting any earth organism.

Once a microbe does learn to infect a host then the host fights back by evolving resistence. Which is why european diseases wiped out some many of the Indians when europeans discovered america- humans from one region had immunity to a human pathogen, but humans from another region did not. So alien bacteria are not quite analogous to the old world germs that devastated the new world.

But speaking of 'alien bacteria'- ive often wondered about all of these abductees - people who believe that they have been taken up into alien space ships and been proded and probed by aliens, and then returned to their beds at night.

They should have alien bacteria all over their bodies. I wonder if anyone has ever investigated to see if these folks have species of bacteria on thier skin or clothes that are new to science- and have biochemistry radically different than earth bacteria.



Fnord
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03 Nov 2012, 8:55 pm

We may never know.

If extra-terrestrial bacteria has no effect on terrestrial life, then it is not likely to be noticed.

If extra-terrestrial bacteria is at all compatible with terrestrial life, then it may be indistinguishable from terrestrial life.

If extra-terrestrial bacteria is so virulent as to cause a global pandemic, then we may all be dead before anyone can determine its source.

We may never know.


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Kurgan
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03 Nov 2012, 10:04 pm

If it's from a planet where life is VERY similar to that on the Earth, then it might be dangerous. With that being said, there's very little odds of any extra-terrestrial life form ever coming in contact with us. There may be no more than a handful of planets with highly advanced life forms capable of creating a civilization.



eric76
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03 Nov 2012, 10:48 pm

Jitro wrote:
Would extraterrestrial bacteria be dangerous to us if we physically came in contact with such?


I imagine that it wouldn't be very likely for an extraterrestrial bacteria to be specialized enough to infect human cells. But it might be possible for a completely alien bacteria to produce some kind of toxic substance that could be very dangerous to human life.



again_with_this
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03 Nov 2012, 11:20 pm

Most terrestrial bacteria is harmless.

Going on those odds, the chances are high that extraterrestrial bacteria would also be harmless.



thomas81
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04 Nov 2012, 12:28 pm

Some micro organisms could even be beneficial.

Since super-bacteria like MRSA are becoming immune to anti biotics biologists are considering using instead using viruses called 'bacteriophages' for medical purposes. Those are viruses that kill bacteria but are harmless to humans.

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eric76
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04 Nov 2012, 12:37 pm

again_with_this wrote:
Most terrestrial bacteria is harmless.

Going on those odds, the chances are high that extraterrestrial bacteria would also be harmless.


Also, many bacteria and viruses are pretty much adapted to a single species.



thomas81
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04 Nov 2012, 1:43 pm

eric76 wrote:
again_with_this wrote:
Most terrestrial bacteria is harmless.

Going on those odds, the chances are high that extraterrestrial bacteria would also be harmless.


Also, many bacteria and viruses are pretty much adapted to a single species.


HIV came from chimpanzees.

I think swine flu actually started from a dog, not a pig.



thomas81
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04 Nov 2012, 4:02 pm

On the matter here is an awesome artists impression of bateriophages in action. Look at em go!

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eric76
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04 Nov 2012, 5:21 pm

thomas81 wrote:
eric76 wrote:
again_with_this wrote:
Most terrestrial bacteria is harmless.

Going on those odds, the chances are high that extraterrestrial bacteria would also be harmless.


Also, many bacteria and viruses are pretty much adapted to a single species.


HIV came from chimpanzees.


I think that is true.

Quote:
I think swine flu actually started from a dog, not a pig.


I don't believe that at all.

There are other zoonotic diseases as well, but they are not counterexamples to my above assertion.



Robdemanc
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05 Nov 2012, 10:07 am

I once read a very good book called Expedition Venus about a group of scientists who had to go to Venus to find an antidote to a harmful spore brought back by a previous mission. The spore had infected the space centre and a relentless fungus was growing at an alarming rate and was calculated to take over the whole planet within months killing all other life.

Thankfully they came back with a bacteria that could kill it just in time!



Frogkeeper206876
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06 Nov 2012, 8:48 pm

Most likely extraterrestrial bacteria would not be harmful to human beings, unless they were VERY similar to those found on Earth.
Pathogens including bacteria are adapted to attack specific animals. You know how if your dog or cat is sick, chances are you will not get sick from it?
On the flip side, many bacteria are deadly to us, but will not infect cats, dogs, or other animals.
The main argument seems to be that we will have had no exposure to extraterrestrial bacteria. But keep in mind that they have also had no exposure to us, and would probably not do well inside our bodies.
So the bacteria would have to be very similar to species from Earth to pose any threat.