DNA accumulation on ventilation system filters in university buildings in Singapore

Irvan Luhung, Yan Wu, Siyu Xu, Naomichi Yamamoto, Victor Wei Chung Chang, William W. Nazaroff

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Biological particles deposit on air handling system filters as they process air. This study reports and interprets abundance and diversity information regarding biomass accumulation on ordinarily used filters acquired from several locations in a university environment. Methods: DNA-based analysis was applied both to quantify (via DNA fluorometry and qPCR) and to characterize (via high-throughput sequencing) the microbial material on filters, which mainly processed recirculated indoor air. Results were interpreted in relation to building occupancy and ventilation system operational parameters. Results: Based on accumulated biomass, average DNA concentrations per AHU filter surface area across nine indoor locations after twelve weeks of filter use were in the respective ranges 1.1 to 41 ng per cm2 for total DNA, 0.02 to 3.3 ng per cm2 for bacterial DNA and 0.2 to 2.0 ng DNA per cm2 for fungal DNA. The most abundant genera detected on the AHU filter samples were Clostridium, Streptophyta, Bacillus, Acinetobacter and Ktedonobacter for bacteria and Aspergillus, Cladosporium, Nigrospora, Rigidoporus and Lentinus for fungi. Conditional indoor airborne DNA concentrations (median (range)) were estimated to be 13 (2.6–107) pg/m3 for total DNA, 0.4 (0.05–8.4) pg/m3 for bacterial DNA and 2.3 (1.0–5.1) pg/m3 for fungal DNA. Conclusion: Conditional airborne concentrations and the relative abundances of selected groups of genera correlate well with occupancy level. Bacterial DNA was found to be more responsive than fungal DNA to differences in occupancy level and indoor environmental conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0186295
Number of pages18
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes

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