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Sampling Airborne Microbes in the Built Environment

This interesting article published in “CLEAN- Soil, Air, Water” (behind a paywall) in March 2013 aims to describe an efficient procedure for sampling airborne microbes and fungi in indoor environments. Airborne bacteria and spores commonly induce respiratory systems such as asthma and allergies, so they are an important component of the built environment. Gauzere et al used four different sampling devices (two of which were developed in their own lab) in three indoor environments–an open-plan office building, the Mona Lisa Room in the Louvre Museum and a storage room in the Decorative Arts Museum in Paris. The authors found that a cyclonic device developed by their own lab appeared to sample the airborne microbes most efficiently. This was intriguing, so I think it would be interesting for someone outside of the laboratory to use the same sampling techniques and devices and compare their results.

cyclonic deviceSabreen Aulakh is a fourth-year undergraduate research assistant in Eisen lab. She is currently working on a microbial aquarium project, surveying microbes found in indoor aquariums on the UC Davis campus.


Sabreen Aulakh

Sabreen Aulakh is an undergraduate researcher in Jonathan Eisen's lab at the University of California Davis.

5 thoughts on “Sampling Airborne Microbes in the Built Environment

  1. The graphic says: Cyclonic device appeared to sample the airborne microbes most efficiently.” And your blog post states: “The authors found that a cyclonic device developed by their own lab appeared to sample the airborne microbes most efficiently.”

    In fact, what the authors wrote was: “Based on criteria defined in our study relating to the analysis of the airborne microbes (quantitative and qualitative aspects, cost, and ease of implementation), cyclonic device appeared to be the most efficient. Sampling device with higher flow-rates will be necessary to carrying out molecular analysis under optimum conditions and for studying the dynamics of airborne microbial diversity at the different scale of time (minimum 45 min).”

    The key here is that they wanted to study
    “dynamics.” Since observations of changes over time were among their important goals, a short sampling time was more responsive to their need to collect their sample quickly. Thus, high volume sampling was necessary to collect a sufficiently large sample size for their purposes. The downside of their “efficiency” was the noise associated with high volume sampling.

    In fact, the lab’s own device had a very high air flow rate, enabling it to collect a very large sample which, in turn, made identification more feasible. It was noisy, like all cyclone impactors, but they noted that the noise was not disturbing in the museum context.

    In the paper discussed in this post, they stated:”An experimental bioaerosol collector (a cyclone device) previously used for the in situ sampling of airborne Legionella spp. [22] and developed by our laboratory (CSTB).”

    See the companion paper where they reported only the museum results (Gauzere, Carole, Marina Moletta-Denata, Hélène Blanquart, Stéphanie Ferreira, Stéphane Moularat, Jean-Jacques Godon, Enric Robine, 2013. “Stability of airborne microbes in the Louvre Museum over time.” Indoor Air doi: 10.1111/ina.12053) and the referenced article on the method (L. Mathieu, E. Robine, M. Deloge-Abarkan, S. Ritoux, D. Pauly, P. Hartemann, D. Zmirou-Navier, “Legionella Bacteria in Aerosols: Sampling and Analytical Approaches Used during the Legionnaires Disease Outbreak in Pas-de-Calais,” J. Infect. Dis. 2006, 193 (9), 1333–1335.)

    These papers explain clearly why they found their device to be more “efficient.” More noteworthy than what is highlighted in the blog post is that the device was developed for and successful in collecting Legionella p. from air which they claim (and I believe) had not been done previously. In their paper in J. Infect Dis. (reference 22, Mathieu et al above) they describe the development and deployment of the high volume sampler for use in the investigation of an Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak. That is interesting or, perhaps in your terms, “intriguing.”

    Both of Carole Gauzere’s papers are included in our database available for free download at http://buildingecology.com.

    1. Hal

      I am pretty lost by the point of your comment here. I found Sabreen’s post to be useful in that it pointed me to an article I had never seen. I found your comment to be confusing and I am not sure what the point of it is.


  2. The purpose of my post was to give more context for the air sampling devices and the purpose of their application in the research. It may have not been clearly stated, but there were several points related to sample volume, high sampling rate and its association with noise, and the reason the both high volume samples were more useful. I provided references to the other paper by the same authors and to the letter to the editor (cited in the Clean journal article) by the same group. In these publications the authors gave more detail on the development of the device that was found “intriguing” in the original post.
    I am still not sure what was so “intriguing” about it. If you have seen the paper now that her post pointed you to it, can you tell me if you found it intriguing and if so, what was intriguing about it?
    The article pointed out that both of the high volume devices were found to perform better than the other two devices with the methods the authors used. I didn’t find that surprising given that the volumes of the samples collected by the two high volume devices (cyclone and filtration) were 30 m^3 and 24 m^3 respectively compared to 0.3 m^3 and 3 m^3 for the SKC and the CAP respectively. The SKC (with its very small sample size) didn’t produce any useful results with their analytical methods, and the CAP produced some results but not as good as the high volume devices.
    I hope this helps.

    Since the Gauzere et al Indoor Air journal article focusing on the results of the groups research in the Louvre using their high volume sampler is also behind a “paywall.” So my comments were also intended help those without access to it. (ISIAQ – members have access to all issues of the Indoor Air journal.

    You can become a member at ISIAQ.org. I encourage anyone interested in microbiology of the built environment to join ISIAQ and read the journal. Most of the articles reflect more attention to the indoor environment than articles in ME journals like ISMEJ. The Indoor Air April 2014 issue has no less than seven relevant articles including an editorial on “bioinformed design” by Jessica Green, leader of the BIOBE project at the Univ. of Oregon, which I believe is the largest Sloan Foundation grant for study of the microbiology of the built environment. Green’s editorial is open access at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/ina.12090/.)

    1. I will tell you what I find intriguing. I find it intriguing that are so tone deaf here that you are focusing on a few words of a post by an undergraduate who was just trying to share her excitement with the field with others. I find your continued persistence about this to be intriguing. I found her post to be useful. It pointed me to an article I was not aware of. And if you could stop with the attitude your follow up comments might have been useful.

  3. Thank you Sabreen Aulakh for posting my paper.
    I’m very happy to see it in MicroBEnet blog ! I read this blog evey weeks and everything is so interesting !

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