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Rapid Detection and Determination of the Aerodynamic Size Range of Airborne Mycobacteria Associated with Whirlpools

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Novel environmental air and water mycobacteria sampling and analytical methods are needed to circumvent difficulties associated with the use of culture-based methodologies. To implement this objective, a commercial, clinical, genus DNA amplification method utilizing the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was interfaced with novel air sampling strategies in the laboratory. Two types of air samplers, a three-piece plastic, disposable filter cassette and an eight-stage micro-orifice uniform deposit impactor (MOUDI), were used in these studies. In both samplers, 37-mm polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) filters were used. Use of the MOUDI sampler permitted the capture of airborne mycobacteria in discrete size ranges, an important parameter for relating the airborne mycobacteria cells to potential respirable particles (aerodynamic diameter <10 m) capable of causing health effects. Analysis of the samples was rapid, requiring only 1-1.5 days, as no microbial culturing or DNA purification was required.

This approach was then used to detect suspected mycobacteria contamination associated with pools at a large public facility. PCR was also used to analyze various water samples from these pools. Again, no culturing or sample purification was required. Water samples taken from all ultraviolet light/hydrogen peroxide-treated whirlpools tested positive for the presence of mycobacteria. No mycobacteria were detected in the chlorine-treated pools and the water main supply facility. All air samples collected in the proximity of the indoor whirlpools and the associated changing rooms were strongly positive for airborne mycobacteria. The airborne mycobacteria particles were predominantly collected on MOUDI stages 1-6 representing an aerodynamic size range of 0.5 to 9.9 m. In conclusion, using this approach permits the rapid detection of mycobacteria contamination as well as the routine monitoring of suspected pools. The approach circumvents problems associated with culture-based methods such as fungal overgrowth on agar plates, and the presence of nonculturable or difficult to culture mycobacteria strains.
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Keywords: Bioaerosol; Hot Tubs; Mycobacteria; Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR); Whirlpools

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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