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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jan 2;104(1):299-304. Epub 2006 Dec 20.

Urban aerosols harbor diverse and dynamic bacterial populations.

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  • 1Ecology Department, Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Considering the importance of its potential implications for human health, agricultural productivity, and ecosystem stability, surprisingly little is known regarding the composition or dynamics of the atmosphere's microbial inhabitants. Using a custom high-density DNA microarray, we detected and monitored bacterial populations in two U.S. cities over 17 weeks. These urban aerosols contained at least 1,800 diverse bacterial types, a richness approaching that of some soil bacterial communities. We also reveal the consistent presence of bacterial families with pathogenic members including environmental relatives of select agents of bioterrorism significance. Finally, using multivariate regression techniques, we demonstrate that temporal and meteorological influences can be stronger factors than location in shaping the biological composition of the air we breathe.

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