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Researchers find best way to detect airborne pathogens

COLUMBUS , Ohio Current methods used to sniff out dangerous airborne pathogens may wrongly suggest that there is no threat to health when, in reality, there may be.

But researchers have found a better method for collecting and analyzing these germs that could give a more accurate assessment of their actual threat. For example, the findings may make it easier to detect airborne pathogens in low concentrations.

Our results suggest that commonly used sampling methods detect only a small fraction of what is actually in the air, said Timothy Buckley, the study's senior author and an associate professor of public health at Ohio State.

And what they detect is often so damaged due to the collection method that the pathogens no longer possess the same infectious potential as they did while in the air.

Such damage can make it nearly impossible for public health workers to determine if a pathogen is viable that is, whether or not it has the potential to infect.

Buckley and his colleagues found that a relatively new device called the BioSampler caused the least amount of damage to the non-infectious microorganisms used in this study. The BioSampler was developed in the late 1990s by a team of researchers from the University of Cincinnati . Although it's not yet a commonly used method for detecting airborne pathogens, it gave Buckley and his team the most accurate reading of the degree of the microorganism's viability, its ability to grow in the human body.

The results currently appear online at the website of the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Ana Rule, a postdoctoral researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, led the study.

In a series of experiments, the researchers tested the BioSampler along with two traditional methods used to sample air a simple membrane filter, which traps microorganisms on a tightly-woven mesh screen, and the AGI-30 (All-Glass Im
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Contact: Timothy Buckley
tbuckley@sph.osu.edu
614-293-7161
Ohio State University
21-Mar-2007


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