Microbial Contents of Vacuum Cleaner Bag Dust and Emitted Bioaerosols and Their Implications for Human Exposure Indoors



Vacuum cleaners can release large concentrations of particles, both in their exhaust air and from resuspension of settled dust. However, the size, variability, and microbial diversity of these emissions are unknown, despite evidence to suggest they may contribute to allergic responses and infection transmission indoors. This study aimed to evaluate bioaerosol emission from various vacuum cleaners. We sampled the air in an experimental flow tunnel where vacuum cleaners were run, and their airborne emissions were sampled with closed-face cassettes. Dust samples were also collected from the dust bag. Total bacteria, total archaea, Penicillium/Aspergillus, and total Clostridium cluster 1 were quantified with specific quantitative PCR protocols, and emission rates were calculated. Clostridium botulinum and antibiotic resistance genes were detected in each sample using endpoint PCR. Bacterial diversity was also analyzed using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), image analysis, and band sequencing. We demonstrated that emission of bacteria and molds (Penicillium/Aspergillus) can reach values as high as 1E5 cell equivalents/min and that those emissions are not related to each other. The bag dust bacterial and mold content was also consistent across the vacuums we assessed, reaching up to 1 E7 bacterial or mold cell equivalents/g. Antibiotic resistance genes were detected in several samples. No archaea or C. botulinum was detected in any air samples. Diversity analyses showed that most bacteria are from human sources, in keeping with other recent results. These results highlight the potential capability of vacuum cleaners to disseminate appreciable quantities of molds and human-associated bacteria indoors and their role as a source of exposure to bioaerosols.




Marc Veillette-a


Luke D. Knibbs-b,c


Ariane Pelletier-a


Remi Charlebois-a


Pascale Blais Lecours-a


Congrong He-c


Lidia Morawska-c


Caroline Duchaine-a,d


a-Centre de Recherche de l’Institut Universitaire de Cardiologie et de Pneumologie de Quebec, Quebec, QC, Canada;

b-School of Population Health, The University of Queensland, Herston, QLD, Australia;

c-International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD, Australia;

d-Departement de Biochimie, de Microbiologie et de Bioinformatique, Faculte des Sciences et de Genie, Universite Laval, Quebec, QC, Canada.


Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2013, 79(20):6331. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01583-13.