Transformative Approach To Investigate the Microphysical Factors Influencing Airborne Transmission of Pathogens

Mara Otero Fernandez, Richard J. Thomas, Henry Oswin, Allen E. Haddrell*, Jonathan P. Reid*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Emerging outbreaks of airborne pathogenic infections worldwide, such as the current severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, have raised the need to understand parameters affecting the airborne survival of microbes in order to develop measures for effective infection control. We report a novel experimental strategy, TAMBAS (tandem approach for microphysical and biological assessment of airborne microorganism survival), to explore the synergistic interactions between the physicochemical and biological processes that impact airborne microbe survival in aerosol droplets. This innovative approach provides a unique and detailed understanding of the processes taking place from aerosol droplet generation through to equilibration and viability decay in the local environment, elucidating decay mechanisms not previously described. The impact of evaporation kinetics, solute hygroscopicity and concentration, particle morphology, and equilibrium particle size on airborne survival are reported, using Escherichia coli MRE162 as a benchmark system. For this system, we report that (i) particle crystallization does not directly impact microbe longevity, (ii) bacteria act as crystallization nuclei during droplet drying and equilibration, and (iii) the kinetics of size and compositional change appear to have a larger effect on microbe longevity than the equilibrium solute concentration.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01543-20
Number of pages13
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Volume86
Issue number23
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • atmospheric bioaerosols
  • bacterial viability
  • electrodynamic balance

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