Profiling Airborne Microbiota in Mechanically Ventilated Buildings across Seasons in Hong Kong Reveals Higher Metabolic Activity in Low-Abundance Bacteria

You Zhou, Marcus H.Y. Leung, Xinzhao Tong, Yonghang Lai, Jimmy C.K. Tong, Ian A. Ridley, Patrick K.H. Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Metabolically active bacteria within built environments are poorly understood. This study aims to investigate the active airborne bacterial microbiota and compare the total and active microbiota in eight mechanically ventilated buildings over four consecutive seasons using the 16S rRNA gene (rDNA) and the 16S rRNA (rRNA), respectively. The relative abundances of the taxa of presumptive occupants and environmental origins were significantly different between the active and total microbiota. The Sloan neutral model suggested that ecological drift and random dispersal played a smaller role in the assembly of the active microbiota than the total microbiota. The seasonal nature of the active microbiota was consistent with that of the total microbiota in both indoor and outdoor environments, while only the indoor environment was significantly affected by geography. The relative abundances of the active and total taxa were positively correlated, suggesting that the high-abundance members were also the greatest contributors to the community-level metabolic activity. Based on the rRNA/rDNA ratio, the low-abundance members consistently had a higher taxon-level metabolic activity than the high-abundance members over seasons, suggesting that the low-abundance members may have the ability to survive and thrive in the indoor environment and their impact on the health of occupants cannot be overlooked.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-259
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Volume55
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • active microbiota
  • indoor air
  • mechanical ventilation
  • rDNA/rRNA ratio
  • total microbiota

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