Bioaerosols are not only of interest to occupational safety and health in highly polluted workplaces such as in agriculture, waste management and recycling. Bioaerosols also play a role at workplaces where an increased concentration of bioagents is not to be expected due to the activity (e.g. office workplaces), as became clear in the current pandemic. At these workplaces, the concentration of bioaerosol particles is expected to be rather low. Moreover, employees here act not only as sinks but also as relevant sources of bioagents.
Therefore, the aim of this project, funded by the Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt, UBA), is to establish an analytical pipeline for the comprehensive characterisation of bioaerosols in the fine dust fraction of indoor air, for a better analysis from the perspective of occupational safety and health.
The pipeline will be based on omics techniques which allows for the the entirety of a type of molecule in a sample, such as proteins or DNA, to be analysed and thus obtain a comprehensive overview of the sample. First, the DNA extracted from fine dusts will be analysed metagenomically. In this approach, certain DNA sequences in a sample are assigned to organisms and thereby the composition of the bioaerosol determined at the level of bacteria and fungi. Secondly, the proteins extracted from fine dusts will be analysed metaproteomically. This means that the amino acid sequences in the protein/peptide of a sample are assigned to organisms as well as functions to the proteins/peptides. Thus, indications of proteins with sensitising or toxic effects can be found. The overall difficulty is to optimise the already established methods for samples with very low concentrations.
In order to target humans as a bioaerosol source, exhaled particle samples will be analysed. Hence, methods will be developed to detect exhaled proteins and conduct metaproteomic analyses as well as to compare exhaled proteins with those in the fine dust fraction indoors. This approach should contribute to the understanding of the concentration of exhaled particles in the indoor particulate matter fraction and help to specify aerosol dispersion scenarios.
Unit 4.7 "Biological Agents"
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