The diverse ecosystem of billions of microorganisms in each human body is vital to your health while alive. Thanks to these microbial symbionts, you may create vital vitamins, stay healthy by being protected from infections, and perform many other crucial tasks. It is believed that after your body deteriorates, microorganisms are released into the environment.
Microbial Life After Death
The blood that has delivered oxygen throughout your body stops being circulated by your heart after you pass away. Autolysis is the process through which oxygen-deprived cells begin to consume themselves. Enzymes in those cells begin to operate on the membranes, proteins, DNA, and other elements that make up the cells.
These enzymes ordinarily digest carbs, proteins, and lipids for energy or growth in a controlled manner. The symbiotic bacteria thrive on the byproducts of this cellular breakdown. Without the protection of your immune system or a consistent supply of food from your digestive system, they shift to this new source of sustenance.
Putrefaction is the process through which gut bacteria, particularly a group of germs known as Clostridia, spread throughout your organs and consume you from the inside out. Anaerobic bacteria rely on oxygen-free energy-producing processes like fermentation when no oxygen is present in the body. These produce the recognizable odorous gases that identify decomposition.
From an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that your germs would have developed strategies to cope with a dying body. Your germs will soon have to leave their host to survive in the outside world and find a new host to colonize, much like rats on a sinking ship. They can multiply by utilizing the carbon and nutrients in your body. A larger population increases the likelihood that at least a small number will endure the harder conditions and successfully locate a new body.
A Microbial Invasion
If you are buried in the ground, as the body decomposes, your microorganisms are flushed into the soil with a soup of breakdown fluids. They are entering a new setting and coming into contact with a brand-new microbial population in the soil. Natural processes usually involve the blending or coalescence of two different microbial communities.
Which community emerges from mixing and which microorganisms become active depends on several variables, including how much environmental change the microbes undergo and who arrives first. The human body’s stable, warm environment, where they are provided with a regular food supply, has helped your microorganisms adapt.
In contrast, soil is challenging because of its sharp chemical and physical gradients and wide variations in temperature, moisture, and nutrients. Additionally, soil currently supports a remarkably diversified microbial community full of decomposers perfectly adapted to that environment and would likely surpass any newcomers.
We also discovered that microorganisms connected to the host improved nitrogen cycling. Although it is an important nutrient for life, most nitrogen on Earth is locked up as an atmospheric gas that cannot be utilized by organisms. Decomposers are essential for converting organic nitrogen sources like proteins into inorganic nitrogen sources like ammonium and nitrate that can be utilized by microorganisms and plants.
By turning substantial nitrogen-containing compounds like proteins and nucleic acids into ammonium, as shown by our recent discoveries, our microorganisms are probably contributing to this recycling procedure. The ammonium can subsequently be transformed into nitrate by soil-based nitrifying microorganisms. The fact that our microbes play an important role in this cycle is one microscopic way we live after death.
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