Vacuum dust: A previously unknown disease vector

Sep 30, 2013
A vacuum is tested inside the clean air wind tunnel. Credit: Caroline Duchaine

The aerosolized dust created by vacuums contain bacteria and mold that "could lead to adverse effects in allergic people, infants, and people with compromised immunity," according to researchers at the University of Queensland and Laval University. Their findings are published ahead of print in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

This finding is worrying as the study found resistance genes for five common antibiotics in the sampled along with the Clostridium botulinum toxin gene. This is of particular concern as, "The dust found indoors could act as a vehicle for infant botulism infection that can have severe consequences," including , according to previous studies.

"Even though no quantitative data are available for gene emission while vacuuming, the observed emission rates for bacteria might suggest that the genetic content of those bacterial cells, including antibiotic resistance genes, may contribute to indoor bioaerosol exposure," explain the researchers.

Researchers used a special clean air wind tunnel to measure vacuum emissions from 21 vacuums of varying quality and age. The clean air wind tunnel enabled them to eliminate other sources of particles and bacteria, says Knibbs. "That way, we could confidently attribute the things we measured purely to the vacuum cleaner."

The results were in accord with earlier studies which have shown human skin and hair to be important sources of bacteria in floor dust and indoor air—which can be readily resuspended and inhaled, says report co-author, Caroline Duchaine.

Knibbs hopes that other studies will follow this one, raising the profile of potential indoor sources of culprits in unsolved medical cases. The investigators conclude their report, saying that vacuum cleaners are "underrepresented in indoor aerosol and bioaerosol assessment and should be considered, especially when assessing cases of allergy, asthma, or infectious diseases without known environmental reservoirs for the pathogenic or causative microbe."

Explore further: 'Cycling' antibiotics might help combat resistance, study suggests

More information: aem.asm.org/content/79/20/6331

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

With you in the room, bacteria counts spike

Mar 28, 2012

A person's mere presence in a room can add 37 million bacteria to the air every hour -- material largely left behind by previous occupants and stirred up from the floor -- according to new research by Yale University engineers.

Allergies may plague renters more than homeowners

Aug 03, 2012

(HealthDay) -- People with common indoor allergies who rent their home are much less likely than homeowners to make changes that would ease their allergy symptoms, researchers have found.

Antibiotics: Change route of delivery to mitigate resistance

Jun 26, 2013

New research suggests that the rapid rise of antibiotic resistance correlates with oral ingestion of antibiotics, raising the possibility that other routes of administration could reduce the spread of resistance. The manuscript ...

Recommended for you

How plant cell compartments change with cell growth

22 minutes ago

A research team led by Kiminori Toyooka from the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science has developed a sophisticated microscopy technique that for the first time captures the detailed movement of ...

Plants can 'switch off' virus DNA

31 minutes ago

A team of virologists and plant geneticists at Wageningen UR has demonstrated that when tomato plants contain Ty-1 resistance to the important Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), parts of the virus DNA ...

A better understanding of cell to cell communication

1 hour ago

Researchers of the ISREC Institute at the School of Life Sciences, EPFL, have deciphered the mechanism whereby some microRNAs are retained in the cell while others are secreted and delivered to neighboring ...

A glimpse at the rings that make cell division possible

1 hour ago

Forming like a blown smoke ring does, a "contractile ring" similar to a tiny muscle pinches yeast cells in two. The division of cells makes life possible, but the actual mechanics of this fundamental process ...

User comments : 0