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Panspermia Causing Trouble?
A Letter from Professor Chandra Wickramsinghe and Professor Sir Fred Hoyle, FRS

December 1, 2000


Diseases of plants and animals have a long history of mysterious appearances without any satisfactory explanation being offered of where they have come from. An example some years ago was the lethal respiratory disease that hit grey seals in the remote Siberian Lake Baikal. Life on Earth is far too intricate to have evolved here in isolation from the rest of the Universe.

Recent studies have shown that much of the material escaping from comets is in the form of organic particles that cannot be distinguished from biomaterial. The input to the Earth is estimated to be several tens of tonnes of cometary material per day, sufficient, if it was all in the form of bacteria, to give a daily incidence of several hundred thousand bacteria per square metre of area. For the most part the material simply washes away. But, in rare cases, a connection may occur and if this escalates a new disease can be born.

Small particles of bacterial and viral sizes descend through the Earth's stratosphere mostly during the winter months, and we believe that the nearly unique English and Welsh practice of out-wintering cattle explains why BSE hit English and Welsh farms more severely than elsewhere. English and Welsh farmers move cattle frequently from field to field, maximising their chance of picking up any pathogen that may fall during the winter months from the air onto the grass. Once a causative agent (genetic fragment or piece of infective protein) got into a few cattle man took a hand, by grinding up infected animals and including them in feed for more cattle.

We live nowadays in a blame culture, but in our view there was no culprit, not unless blame be equated with ignorance. Indeed the political authorities, by banning the inclusion of infected portions of cattle in cattle feed, may be said to have acted both quickly and responsibly.

Whether they should also have banned any use of cattle products in medical vaccines remains another question with disturbing possibilities.

Yours faithfully,

Chandra Wickramsinghe,

Fred Hoyle,

24 Llwynypia Road,
Lisvane, Cardiff CF14 0SY

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