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Metagenomic Analysis of the Airborne Environment in Urban Spaces

Be, Nicholas A., Thissen, James B., Fofanov, Viacheslav Y., Allen, Jonathan E., Rojas, Mark, Golovko, George, Fofanov, Yuriy, Koshinsky, Heather, Jaing, Crystal J.
Microbial ecology 2015 v.69 no.2 pp. 346-355
Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. kurstaki, DNA, aerosols, air filters, analytical methods, bacteria, fungi, invertebrates, metagenomics, microbial ecology, monitoring, public health, spores, urban areas, viruses
The organisms in aerosol microenvironments, especially densely populated urban areas, are relevant to maintenance of public health and detection of potential epidemic or biothreat agents. To examine aerosolized microorganisms in this environment, we performed sequencing on the material from an urban aerosol surveillance program. Whole metagenome sequencing was applied to DNA extracted from air filters obtained during periods from each of the four seasons. The composition of bacteria, plants, fungi, invertebrates, and viruses demonstrated distinct temporal shifts. Bacillus thuringiensis serovar kurstaki was detected in samples known to be exposed to aerosolized spores, illustrating the potential utility of this approach for identification of intentionally introduced microbial agents. Together, these data demonstrate the temporally dependent metagenomic complexity of urban aerosols and the potential of genomic analytical techniques for biosurveillance and monitoring of threats to public health.