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      Humans differ in their personal microbial cloud

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          Abstract

          Dispersal of microbes between humans and the built environment can occur through direct contact with surfaces or through airborne release; the latter mechanism remains poorly understood. Humans emit upwards of 10 6 biological particles per hour, and have long been known to transmit pathogens to other individuals and to indoor surfaces. However it has not previously been demonstrated that humans emit a detectible microbial cloud into surrounding indoor air, nor whether such clouds are sufficiently differentiated to allow the identification of individual occupants. We used high-throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA genes to characterize the airborne bacterial contribution of a single person sitting in a sanitized custom experimental climate chamber. We compared that to air sampled in an adjacent, identical, unoccupied chamber, as well as to supply and exhaust air sources. Additionally, we assessed microbial communities in settled particles surrounding each occupant, to investigate the potential long-term fate of airborne microbial emissions. Most occupants could be clearly detected by their airborne bacterial emissions, as well as their contribution to settled particles, within 1.5–4 h. Bacterial clouds from the occupants were statistically distinct, allowing the identification of some individual occupants. Our results confirm that an occupied space is microbially distinct from an unoccupied one, and demonstrate for the first time that individuals release their own personalized microbial cloud.

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          Most cited references 39

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          R: A language and environment for statistical computing

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            The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants.

            Because human activities impact the timing, location, and degree of pollutant exposure, they play a key role in explaining exposure variation. This fact has motivated the collection of activity pattern data for their specific use in exposure assessments. The largest of these recent efforts is the National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS), a 2-year probability-based telephone survey (n=9386) of exposure-related human activities in the United States (U.S.) sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The primary purpose of NHAPS was to provide comprehensive and current exposure information over broad geographical and temporal scales, particularly for use in probabilistic population exposure models. NHAPS was conducted on a virtually daily basis from late September 1992 through September 1994 by the University of Maryland's Survey Research Center using a computer-assisted telephone interview instrument (CATI) to collect 24-h retrospective diaries and answers to a number of personal and exposure-related questions from each respondent. The resulting diary records contain beginning and ending times for each distinct combination of location and activity occurring on the diary day (i.e., each microenvironment). Between 340 and 1713 respondents of all ages were interviewed in each of the 10 EPA regions across the 48 contiguous states. Interviews were completed in 63% of the households contacted. NHAPS respondents reported spending an average of 87% of their time in enclosed buildings and about 6% of their time in enclosed vehicles. These proportions are fairly constant across the various regions of the U.S. and Canada and for the California population between the late 1980s, when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) sponsored a state-wide activity pattern study, and the mid-1990s, when NHAPS was conducted. However, the number of people exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) in California seems to have decreased over the same time period, where exposure is determined by the reported time spent with a smoker. In both California and the entire nation, the most time spent exposed to ETS was reported to take place in residential locations.
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              R: A language and environmental for statistical computing

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                PeerJ Inc. (San Francisco, USA )
                2167-8359
                22 September 2015
                2015
                : 3
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Biology and the Built Environment Center, University of Oregon , Eugene, OR, USA
                [2 ]Department of Biology, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Oregon , Eugene, OR, USA
                [3 ]Department of Architecture, Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory, University of Oregon , Eugene, OR, USA
                [4 ]Santa Fe Institute , Santa Fe, NM, USA
                Article
                1258
                10.7717/peerj.1258
                4582947
                © 2015 Meadow et al.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

                Funding
                Funded by: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Microbiology
                This work was funded by a grant to the Biology and the Built Environment Center from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Microbiology for the Built Environment Program. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Categories
                Ecology
                Microbiology

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