Australian bushfire smoke could have carried bacteria, pathogens for hundreds of kilometres

New Zealand skies turned hazy and glaciers a shade of brown, as Australian bushfires raged earlier this year.

Now research has revealed it could have been more than just ash that crossed the Tasman

The findings by US researchers published today in Science found that wildfire smoke could carry bacteria and fungi with it - potentially for hundreds of kilometres.

Dr Tara Strand, the general manager of Scion Gen Forests and Landscapes says the particles were minuscule. 

"That smoke that arrived was carrying particulate matter that was less than 2.5 micrometres and these particles are really small and inside those particles could be plant pathogens arriving in the wind."

The researchers found that despite the incredible heat, wildfire conditions can create airborne pockets where microbes can survive.

Dr Joel Rindelaub from Aerosol Chemist Auckland University says it's "absolutely wild".

"We can get tiny living things that are surviving high temperatures, high heats and this wild, wild mixture of things. It's actually a little bit exciting and a little bit scary too."

The report's authors say the next step is to understand just how far and which microbes are transported by smoke under different conditions

It's something experts here in New Zealand will be watching closely.

"As climate changes, we are going to see more and more of those fires particularly maybe here in the Canterbury region or some of the eastern parts of the north island so it's going to increase our exposure and potentially have more harmful effects," says Dr Rindelaub. 

Wildfires - dangerous and damaging and potentially delivering disease.