Total Virus and Bacteria Concentrations in Indoor and Outdoor Air

Environ Sci Technol Lett. 2015;2(4):84-88. doi: 10.1021/acs.estlett.5b00050.


Viruses play important roles in microbial ecology and some infectious diseases, but relatively little is known about concentrations, sources, transformation, and fate of viruses in the atmosphere. We have measured total airborne concentrations of virus-like and bacteria-like particles (VLPs between 0.02 μm and 0.5 μm in size and BLPs between 0.5 μm and 5 μm) in nine locations: a classroom, a daycare center, a dining facility, a health center, three houses, an office, and outdoors. Indoor concentrations of both VLPs and BLPs were ~105 particles m-3, and the virus-to-bacteria ratio was 0.9 ± 0.1 (mean ± standard deviation across different locations). There were no significant differences in concentration between different indoor environments. VLP and BLP concentrations in outdoor air were 2.6 and 1.6 times higher, respectively, than in indoor air. At the single outdoor site, the virus-to-bacteria ratio was 1.4.