Predominance of Gram-positive bacteria in house dust in the low-allergy risk Russian Karelia

Environ Microbiol. 2008 Dec;10(12):3317-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-2920.2008.01723.x. Epub 2008 Aug 14.


Simple living conditions and farming environment have been associated with reduced risk for allergic diseases such as atopy and asthma but the factors responsible for this effect remain unresolved. We examined the bacterial composition of house dusts obtained from Finnish and Russian Karelia, two adjacent areas with high and low occurrence of atopic diseases respectively. Two dust mixes, both composed of 10 randomly selected dust samples from 349 Finnish and 417 Russian Karelian households were studied for bacterial biomarkers (DNA, Limulus-active endotoxin, 3-OH fatty acids, muramic acid) and for 16S rRNA gene sequences. Overall, the DNA cloning revealed more taxons (94 different genera) of dustborne bacteria than seen in any previous study on residential environments. Majority (67%) of the bacterial DNA clones in house dust from the low-allergy Russian Kareliarepresented Gram-positive bacteria (Firmicutes and Actinobacteria), predominantly Staphylococcaceae and Corynebacteriaceae. Russian Karelian dust showed up to 20-fold higher contents of muramic acid (marker of Gram-positive bacteria) and a sevenfold higher number of clones of animal-associated species, whereas in Finnish Karelian dust Gram-negatives (mainly Proteobacteria) predominated. Clones of plant-associated bacterial species and of chloroplast, indicating plant biomass, were more numerous in Finnish than in Russian Karelian dust. In conclusion, this study revealed major disparities between Finnish and Russian house dusts. The higher bacterial content and the predominance of Gram-positive bacteria in Russian dust may have implications for occurrence of atopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Bacterial / chemistry
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Ribosomal / chemistry
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Dust / analysis*
  • Endotoxins / analysis
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Finland
  • Genes, rRNA
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / classification*
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Muramic Acids / analysis
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Russia
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • Dust
  • Endotoxins
  • Fatty Acids
  • Muramic Acids
  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S