Environmental Microbiology and Human Health






Detection and characterisation of inflammatory agents associated with bioaerosol emitted from biowaste and intensive agriculture. New approaches for the quantitative detection of human pathogenic viruses within the freshwater-marine continuum. Rapid monitoring of bioaerosols in Urban, Agricultural and Industrial Environments. Using next generation sequencing to reveal human impact on aquatic reservoirs of antibiotic resistant bacteria at the catchment scale.
Cranfield University
Open University
University of Plymouth
University of the West of England
Bangor University
Cranfield University
Cambridge University
University of Liverpool
CEFAS Weymouth
University of Essex
Cranfield University
University of Warwick
University of Exeter
Rothamsted Research
Earlham Institute


Environmental media such as air and water and their associated ecological niches, for instance sediments and biofilms, provide important pathways for human exposure to pathogenic and allergenic microorganisms: Microorganisms enter the water cycle through multiple sources, including human activity such as sewage disposal, run-off from agricultural animal waste and ship ballast water. Not all of this water will be treated, and if it is, not all of these microorganisms will be removed by chlorination and other treatments, leading to their sporadic presence in potable water, and more regular occurrence in bathing waters and in shellfish consumed by humans.

In addition to routine monitoring of potable supply and recreational waters, most information for pathogenic microorganisms is currently collected during large outbreaks of infection and not sporadic or local incidents. Sources may be diffuse and intermittent and highly episodic, for example as a result of weather events, ship movement and system breakdowns.

Primary biological aerosol particles (PBAPs, or 'bioaerosols') are those airborne particles that are discernibly all or part of an organism, either living, dormant or dead. This includes pollen, fungal spores, bacteria, viruses and plant spores. It also includes material such as plant, animal and insect fragments, leaf litter, dander, phytoplankton, epithelial cells and fungal material.

Bioaerosols are associated with various sources including dust, water surfaces (both freshwaters and coastal seas), vegetation and animals but also originate from crop harvesting, livestock emissions, fungiculture, grain silos, damp living conditions, composting sites, deliberate or accidental releases, construction, vehicles, building demolition, wastewater processing, biotechnology fermentation, metal working fluids, production and processing of wood and paper, and production of certain food stuffs.

This four year NERC research programme has the vision of providing the scientific evidence to support fast and efficient identification of pathogenic/allergenic microorganisms and biological material in environmental media which can be used in appropriate tools and models for the protection of public health. The aim of this programme is to support research into enhanced and novel molecular methods and associated process studies that will enable the identification of pathogenic/allergenic microorganisms and biological material in environmental media and/or address the problem of non-viable organisms. The programme is split into two parts; the first focuses on aquatic (freshwater and coastal) microbiology and the second on bioaerosols.


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