[Frontiers in Bioscience S3, 445-453, January 1, 2011]

Assessment of airborne microorganisms by real-time PCR: optimistic findings and research challenges

Anne Oppliger, Frederic G. Masclaux, Helene Niculita-Hirzel

Institute for Work and Health, University of Lausanne and Geneva, Switzerland


1. Abstract
2. Introduction
3. Airborne bacteria, fungi and virus: statement of fact
3.1. Bacteria
3.2. Fungi
3.3. Virus
4. Sampling of airborne microorganisms
5. Nucleic acid extraction, PCR inhibitors & technical solutions
6. Detection efficiency and sensitivity
7. Evaluation and interpretations of data from molecular analysis
8. Conclusion and future prospects
9. Acknowledgements
10. References


Most airborne microorganisms are natural components of our ecosystem. Soil, vegetation and animals, including humans, are sources for aerial release of these living or dead cells. In the past, assessment of airborne microorganisms was mainly restricted to occupational health concerns. Indeed, in several occupations, exposure to very high concentrations of non-infectious airborne bacteria and fungi, result in allergenic, toxic or irritant reactions. Recently, the threat of bioterrorism and pandemics have highlighted the urgent need to increase knowledge of bioaerosol ecology. More fundamentally, airborne bacterial and fungal communities begin to draw much more consideration from environmental microbiologists, who have neglected this area for a long time. This increased interest of scientists is to a great part due to the development and use of real-time PCR techniques to identify and quantify airborne microorganisms. Even if the advantages of the PCR technology are obvious, researchers are confronted with new problems. This review describes the methodological state of the art in bioaerosols field and emphasizes the future challenges and perspectives of the real-time PCR-based methods for airborne microorganism studies.