A cross sectional study on airborne inhalable microorganisms, endotoxin, and particles in pigeon coops - Risk assessment of exposure

Environ Res. 2022 Mar;204(Pt D):112404. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.112404. Epub 2021 Nov 25.


Pigeon breeding is associated with symptoms of the airways. The aim of this study is to illuminate the bacteriological and toxicological characteristics of airborne dust in pigeon coops. Airborne dust was sampled in 31 urban pigeon coops with homing and fancy pigeons, and following the dust was characterized. In total 141 different bacterial species were identified using MALDI-TOF MS, and of these 11 species are classified in risk group 2. Of the cultivable bacteria, Staphylococcus equorum was present in the highest concentration. Microorganisms in the dust were able to form biofilm, and the amount correlated positively with the number of bacteria. Next generation sequencing showed 180 genera with Acinetobacter in highest reads. On average 999 ± 225 ZOTUs were observed per sample with a Shannon-Wiener biodiversity index of 6.17 ± 0.24. Of the identified species the following have previously been suggested as causative agents of extrinsic allergic alveolitis: Alcaligenes faecalis, Bacillus subtilis, Pantoea agglomerans, Sphingobacterium spiritivorum, Thermoactinomyces sp., and Streptomyces albus. Staphylococcus was present on particles with sizes between 1.1 and > 7.0 μm with a geometric mean diameter of particles on 4.7 ± 1.1 μm. Concentrations of airborne endotoxin and dust were elevated compared to references, and the geometric mean concentrations were 102 EU/m3 and 1.07 mg dust/m3, respectively. Upon exposure to the airborne dust human granulocytes produced Reactive Oxidative Species during the first 5 min, and then no further reaction was observed. The concentrations of bacteria in general, Staphylococcus spp., and endotoxin and biodiversity were associated significantly with season, temperature and/or relative humidity, but not with type or density of pigeons. The bacterial composition and biodiversity indices were not affected by type of pigeon. In conclusion, the exposure to bacteria and endotoxin in pigeon houses should not be neglected in the evaluation of causative agents of airways symptoms among pigeon breeders.

Keywords: Bioaerosol; Biofilm; Endotoxin; Escherichia coli; Extrinsic allergic alveolitis.