Impacts of Flood Damage on Airborne Bacteria and Fungi in Homes

Finally got around to reading “Impacts of Flood Damage on Airborne Bacteria and Fungi in Homes after the 2013 Colorado Front Range Flood” from the labs of Shelly Miller and Noah Fierer.  The massive floods in 2013 provided the researchers with an opportunity to examine the lingering effects of flood damage, even post remediation.   Ideally of course one would have samples from a home before and after flooding but that’s a little more difficult to arrange!  Not surprisingly, there is a significant difference between homes that were and weren’t flooded, long after the flooding is gone.  One thing I really liked about this study was the fact that they looked at both bacteria and fungi in order to get a more complete picture of the microbial community (viruses always get the short stick).   Abstract below:

Flood-damaged homes typically have elevated microbial loads, and their occupants have an increased incidence of allergies, asthma, and other respiratory ailments, yet the microbial communities in these homes remain under-studied. Using culture-independent approaches, we characterized bacterial and fungal communities in homes in Boulder, CO, USA 2—3 months after the historic September, 2013 flooding event. We collected passive air samples from basements in 50 homes (36 flood-damaged, 14 non-flooded), and we sequenced the bacterial 16S rRNA gene (V4-V5 region) and the fungal ITS1 region from these samples for community analyses. Quantitative PCR was used to estimate the abundances of bacteria and fungi in the passive air samples. Results indicate significant differences in bacterial and fungal community composition between flooded and non-flooded homes. Fungal abundances were estimated to be three times higher in flooded, relative to non-flooded homes, but there were no significant differences in bacterial abundances. Penicillium (fungi) and Pseudomonadaceae and Enterobacteriaceae (bacteria) were among the most abundant taxa in flooded homes. Our results suggest that bacterial and fungal communities continue to be affected by flooding, even after relative humidity has returned to baseline levels and remediation has removed any visible evidence of flood damage.


One thought on “Impacts of Flood Damage on Airborne Bacteria and Fungi in Homes

  1. It is an interesting study by Shelly Miller and Noah Fierer. Obviously fungal spore get germination rapidly where the moisture is excess. The fact found in this study on fungal aerosol in indoor air depending on the organic matter (wood, vegetable, etc.,) present in the indoor.I will appreciate this research approach on imapact of floods on bioaerosol.

Leave a Reply

David Coil

David Coil is a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis. David works at the intersection between research, education, and outreach in the areas of the microbiology of the built environment, microbial ecology, and bacterial genomics. Twitter