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Composition of Bacillus Species in Aerosols from 11 U.S. Cities

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A PCR-based heteroduplex assay was used to determine the presence and composition of Bacillus species in 11,059 Environmental Protection Agency PM2.5 aerosol samples from 11 U.S. cities. The assay differentiated three groups: Type A containing Bacillus anthracis and very closely related, often pathogenic, Bacillus cereus and Bacillus thuringiensis strains; Type B containing other B. cereus and B. thuringiensis strains; and a third group of more-distantly related Bacillus species. Eight of the 11 cities were positive for Bacillus species in 50% or more of the samples, and the percent of aerosol samples that contained the HD Type A group ranged from 3% to 32%. Cities from the eastern half of the United States generally contained a higher frequency and broader diversity of Bacillus species than the western half of the United States. Positive samples were detected throughout the year. These results have implications for pathogen detection in environmental samples, understanding the natural evolution of new pathogenic strains, and incidence of infection caused by strains of the B. cereus subgroup.

Keywords: Bacillus anthracis; Bacillus cereus; Bacillus thuringiensis; PCR detection; aerosol; environmental detection of bacteria; forensic science; heteroduplex

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Bioscience Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545.

Publication date: 2006-05-01

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