Impacts of flood damage on airborne bacteria and fungi in homes after the 2013 Colorado Front Range flood

Environ Sci Technol. 2015 Mar 3;49(5):2675-84. doi: 10.1021/es503845j. Epub 2015 Feb 13.


Flood-damaged homes typically have elevated microbial loads, and their occupants have an increased incidence of allergies, asthma, and other respiratory ailments, yet the microbial communities in these homes remain under-studied. Using culture-independent approaches, we characterized bacterial and fungal communities in homes in Boulder, CO, USA 2-3 months after the historic September, 2013 flooding event. We collected passive air samples from basements in 50 homes (36 flood-damaged, 14 non-flooded), and we sequenced the bacterial 16S rRNA gene (V4-V5 region) and the fungal ITS1 region from these samples for community analyses. Quantitative PCR was used to estimate the abundances of bacteria and fungi in the passive air samples. Results indicate significant differences in bacterial and fungal community composition between flooded and non-flooded homes. Fungal abundances were estimated to be three times higher in flooded, relative to non-flooded homes, but there were no significant differences in bacterial abundances. Penicillium (fungi) and Pseudomonadaceae and Enterobacteriaceae (bacteria) were among the most abundant taxa in flooded homes. Our results suggest that bacterial and fungal communities continue to be affected by flooding, even after relative humidity has returned to baseline levels and remediation has removed any visible evidence of flood damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Microbiology*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / growth & development*
  • Colorado
  • Disasters*
  • Floods*
  • Fungi / genetics
  • Fungi / growth & development*
  • Humans
  • RNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • RNA, Fungal / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics


  • RNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Fungal
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S