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Int Microbiol. 2016 Mar;19(1):1-13. doi: 10.2436/20.1501.01.258.

Monitoring of airborne biological particles in outdoor atmosphere. Part 1: Importance, variability and ratios.

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Higher Technical School of Industrial Engineering, Technical University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.
Departament of Plant Biology II, Faculty of Pharmacy, Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.
Center of Molecular Biology Severo Ochoa, CSIC-UAM, Madrid, Spain.


The first part of this review ("Monitoring of airborne biological particles in outdoor atmosphere. Part 1: Importance, variability and ratios") describes the current knowledge on the major biological particles present in the air regarding their global distribution, concentrations, ratios and influence of meteorological factors in an attempt to provide a framework for monitoring their biodiversity and variability in such a singular environment as the atmosphere. Viruses, bacteria, fungi, pollen and fragments thereof are the most abundant microscopic biological particles in the air outdoors. Some of them can cause allergy and severe diseases in humans, other animals and plants, with the subsequent economic impact. Despite the harsh conditions, they can be found from land and sea surfaces to beyond the troposphere and have been proposed to play a role also in weather conditions and climate change by acting as nucleation particles and inducing water vapour condensation. In regards to their global distribution, marine environments act mostly as a source for bacteria while continents additionally provide fungal and pollen elements. Within terrestrial environments, their abundances and diversity seem to be influenced by the land-use type (rural, urban, coastal) and their particularities. Temporal variability has been observed for all these organisms, mostly triggered by global changes in temperature, relative humidity, et cetera. Local fluctuations in meteorological factors may also result in pronounced changes in the airbiota. Although biological particles can be transported several hundreds of meters from the original source, and even intercontinentally, the time and final distance travelled are strongly influenced by factors such as wind speed and direction. [Int Microbiol 2016; 19(1):1-1 3].


air-genome ratios; airbiota; airborne biological particles; bioaerosols; meteorological factors

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