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Atmosphere 2012, 3(1), 87-102; doi:10.3390/atmos3010087

Atmosphere: A Source of Pathogenic or Beneficial Microbes?

Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Institute of Marine Biology and Genetics, Gournes Pediados, P.O. Box 2214, 71500 Heraklion, Crete, Greece
Received: 28 November 2011 / Revised: 29 December 2011 / Accepted: 4 January 2012 / Published: 16 January 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Effects of Air Pollution)
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The atmosphere has been described as one of the last frontiers of biological exploration on Earth. The composition of microbial communities in the atmosphere is still not well-defined, and taxonomic studies of bacterial diversity in the outdoor air have just started to emerge, whereas our knowledge about the functional potential of air microbiota is scant. When in the air, microorganisms can be attached to ambient particles and/or incorporated into water droplets of clouds, fog, and precipitation (i.e., rain, snow, hail). Further, they can be deposited back to earth’s surfaces via dry and wet deposition processes and they can possibly induce an effect on the diversity and function of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems or impose impacts to human health through microbial pathogens dispersion. In addition to their impact on ecosystem and public health, there are strong indications that air microbes are metabolically active and well adapted to the harsh atmospheric conditions. Furthermore they can affect atmospheric chemistry and physics, with important implications in meteorology and global climate. This review summarizes current knowledge about the ubiquitous presence of microbes in the atmosphere and discusses their ability to survive in the atmospheric environment. The purpose is to evaluate the atmospheric environment as a source of pathogenic or beneficial microbes and to assess the biotechnological opportunities that may offer.
Keywords: air microbiota; health; metabolic processes; biotechnology air microbiota; health; metabolic processes; biotechnology
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Polymenakou, P.N. Atmosphere: A Source of Pathogenic or Beneficial Microbes? Atmosphere 2012, 3, 87-102.

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