Airborne bacterial and fungal concentrations and fungal diversity in bedrooms of infant twins under 1 year of age living in Porto

Environ Res. 2022 Apr 15;206:112568. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.112568. Epub 2021 Dec 18.


Exposure to airborne microorganisms has been linked to the development of health detriments, particularly in children. Microbial pollution can constitute a relevant health concern indoors, where levels of airborne microorganisms may be specially increased. This work aimed to characterize the airborne bacterial levels, and fungal concentration and diversity to which twins are exposed in their bedrooms (n = 30) during the first year of life. Bacterial and fungal levels varied widely across the studied bedrooms, with 10% of the rooms presenting values exceeding the national limit for both indoor bacterial and fungal counts. Cladosporium was the predominant genera, but Penicillium, Aspergillus, Alternaria, Trichoderma and Chrysonilia were also identified in the samples collected. In addition, two toxicogenic species, A. flavus and T. viride, were identified at counts that exceeded the established limit (12 CFU/m3) in 3 and 7% of the bedrooms surveyed, respectively. Based on indoor-to-outdoor concentration ratios, outdoor air seemed to be the main contributor to the total load of fungi found indoors, while airborne bacteria appeared to be mainly linked to indoor sources. Higher indoor nitrogen dioxide levels were negatively correlated with indoor fungi concentrations, whereas particulate matter and volatile organic compounds concentrations were associated with an increase in fungal prevalence. In addition, rooms with small carpets or located near outdoor agriculture sources presented significantly greater total fungal concentrations. Multiple linear regression models showed that outdoor levels were the single significant predictor identified, explaining 38.6 and 53.6% of the Cladosporium sp. and total fungi counts, respectively. The results also suggest the existence of additional factors contributing to airborne biologicals load in infants' bedrooms that deserve further investigation. Findings stress the need for investigating the existence of declared interactive effects between chemical and biological air pollutants to accurately understand the health risk that the assessed levels can represent to infants.

Keywords: Airborne bacteria and fungi; Bedrooms; Early-life exposures; Fungal diversity; Predictors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Microbiology*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor* / analysis
  • Bacteria
  • Child
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Fungi
  • Humans