Long-term viable bioaerosol sampling using a temperature- and humidity-controlled filtration apparatus, a laboratory investigation using culturable E-coli.
Sampling for culturable (e.g., viable) aerosolized microbes (bioaerosols) is a useful means to provide information for public health monitoring and studies. However, it is challenging to maintain microbe culturability when sampling at high flow rates (>12L/min) and extended periods of time (4h). We developed a first-generation, viable bioaerosol collection system (VBCS) utilizing temperature (T) and relative humidity (RH)-conditioned filtration at a flow rate of 25L/min. A two-stage system of tube-in-shell Nafion exchange units provides cooling to 10 degrees C and RH conditioning to 80-95%. Aerosol particles are collected on a polyurethane nanofiber filter providing a physical collection efficiency of >95% for sizes 0.06-10 mu m. The T and RH conditions at the collection filter are maintained, despite changes to ambient conditions. The initial testing of the VBCS was done under indoor, laboratory conditions with aerosolized, vegetative E. coli. A scenario of a 30-min challenge of bioaerosol followed by continued sampling of clean air for various times was used to judge culturability maintenance under extended-term sampling. An initial loss of culturability upon collection onto the filter was observed; 23 13% relative to 4-mm all-glass impinger. However once collected, 98% of culturability was maintained for an additional 4.5h of sampling. An exponential decay in culturability was observed from 8h to 15h of sampling. Also, 24-h cold storage of the filters collected was studied. The VBCS is based on the use of dry filter cassettes, needs minimal maintenance, and preserves culturability of vegetative bacteria for >4h.(c) 2017 RTI International and Aerosol Dynamics Inc.