International Microbiology, Vol 19, No 2 (2016)

Monitoring of airborne biological particles in outdoor atmosphere. Part 2: Metagenomics applied to urban environments

Andrés Núñez, Guillermo Amo de Paz, Alberto Rastrojo, Ana M. García, Antonio Alcamí, A. Montserrat Gutiérrez-Bustillo, Diego A. Moreno


The air we breathe contains microscopic biological particles such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and pollen, some of them with relevant clinic importance. These organisms and/or their propagules have been traditionally studied by different disciplines and diverse methodologies like culture and microscopy. These techniques require time, expertise and also have some important biases. As a consequence, our knowledge on the total diversity and the relationships between the different biological entities present in the air is far from being complete. Currently, metagenomics and next-generation sequencing (NGS) may resolve this shortage of information and have been recently applied to metropolitan areas. Although the procedures and methods are not totally standardized yet, the first studies from urban air samples confirm the previous results obtained by culture and microscopy regarding abundance and variation of these biological particles. However, DNA-sequence analyses call into question some preceding ideas and also provide new interesting insights into diversity and their spatial distribution inside the cities. Here, we review the procedures, results and perspectives of the recent works that apply NGS to study the main biological particles present in the air of urban environments. [Int Microbiol 19(2): 69-80 (2016)]

Keywords: airborne biological particles · metagenomics · next-generation sequencing (NGS) · air biomonitoring · urban aerobiology

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