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Application of Flow Cytometry and Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization for Assessment of Exposures to Airborne Bacteria

Current limitations in the methodology for enumeration and identification of airborne bacteria compromise the precision and accuracy of bioaerosol exposure assessment. In this study, flow cytometry and fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) were evaluated for the assessment of exposures to airborne bacteria.Laboratorygenerated two-component bioaerosols in exposure chambers and complex native bioaerosols in swine barns were sampled with two types of liquid impingers (all-glass impinger-30 and May 3-stage impinger). Aliquots of collection media were processed and enumerated by a standard culture technique, microscopy, or flow cytometry after nucleic acid staining with 4*,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) and identified taxonomically by FISH. DAPI-labeled impinger samples yielded comparable estimates of bioaerosol concentrations when enumerated by microscopy or flow cytometry.The standard culture method underestimated bioaerosol concentrations by 2 orders of magnitude when compared to microscopy or flow cytometry. In the FISH method, aliquots of collection media were incubated with a probe universally complementary to eubacteria, a probe specific for several Pseudomonas species, and a probe complementary to eubacteria for detection of nonspecific binding. With these probes, FISH allowed quantitative identification of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli bioaerosols in the exposure chamber without measurable nonspecific binding.Impinger samples from the swine barn demonstrated the efficacy of the FISH method for the identification of eubacteria in a complex organic dust. This work demonstrates the potential of emerging molecular techniques to complement traditional methods of bioaerosol exposure assessment.