Surface sampling of spores in dry-deposition aerosols

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2009 Jan;75(1):39-44. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01563-08. Epub 2008 Nov 7.


The ability to reliably and reproducibly sample surfaces contaminated with a biological agent is a critical step in measuring the extent of contamination and determining if decontamination steps have been successful. The recovery operations following the 2001 attacks with Bacillus anthracis spores were complicated by the fact that no standard sample collection format or decontamination procedures were established. Recovery efficiencies traditionally have been calculated based upon biological agents which were applied to test surfaces in a liquid format and then allowed to dry prior to sampling tests, which may not be best suited for a real-world event with aerosolized biological agents. In order to ascertain if differences existed between air-dried liquid deposition and biological spores which were allowed to settle on a surface in a dried format, a study was undertaken to determine if differences existed in surface sampling recovery efficiencies for four representative surfaces. Studies were then undertaken to compare sampling efficiencies between liquid spore deposition and aerosolized spores which were allowed to gradually settle under gravity on four different test coupon types. Tests with both types of deposition compared efficiencies of four unique swabbing materials applied to four surfaces with various surface properties. Our studies demonstrate that recovery of liquid-deposited spores differs significantly from recovery of dry aerosol-deposited spores in most instances. Whether the recovery of liquid-deposited spores is overexaggerated or underrepresented with respect to that of aerosol-deposited spores depends upon the surface material being tested.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols*
  • Bacillus anthracis / isolation & purification*
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Spores, Bacterial / isolation & purification*


  • Aerosols