Compendium of analytical methods for sampling, characterization and quantification of bioaerosols

Corinne Whitby*, Robert M.W. Ferguson, Ian Colbeck, Alex J. Dumbrell, Zaheer A. Nasir, Emma Marczylo, Rob Kinnersley, Philippa Douglas, Gill Drew, Kam Bhui, Mark Lemon, Simon Jackson, Sean Tyrrel, Frederic Coulon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Bioaerosols are suspensions of airborne particulate matter of biological origin (BioPM) which includes microorganisms and the products of these organisms. Bioaerosols are ubiquitous in indoor and outdoor environments and can become dispersed by attaching to other particles. Bioaerosols are diverse in terms of their size, composition and biological properties and are an important transmission route for infectious and sensitization agents. More recently, bioaerosols have received significant scientific and societal attention from industry, academia, government and the wider public due to the emergence and global spread of COVID-19 and the threat of bioterrorism. Yet despite their importance for human health, the microbiological components of aerosols and their species dispersal from various environments remains poorly understood. Moreover, there is a lack of understanding of the ecology and role that bioaerosols play in the environment. As a result of these knowledge gaps, health officials and regulators have been hindered in their assessment of public and occupational health exposures and risk. For example, a better understanding of the concentrations and composition of bioaerosols in a particular environment, and the transmission dynamics of pathogens and their components, can inform on the appropriate ventilation rates and hygiene procedures to maintain good air quality and reduce human health risk. However, there are currently many uncertainties still remaining with regard to exposure assessment. To better understand the impact of bioaerosol exposure on human health, comprehensive methods to detect, characterise and quantify bioaerosols are needed. Although significant advances in technologies for bioaerosol sampling and analysis have been achieved over the last two decades or so, a consensus on air sampling methods for a particular context or environment and a universal analysis method still does not exist. This makes it difficult for researchers to compare data across studies, and for regulators to set meaningful exposure limits. BioAirNet is a UKRI NERC-funded project which acts as a leading voice for the UK BioPM science community and operates around four themes: Theme (1) BioPM sources and dynamics; Theme (2) BioPM sampling and characterisation; Theme (3) Human health, behaviour and wellbeing; and Theme (4) Policy and public engagement. As part of Theme 2, researchers, regulators, and public health officials have developed this compendium and Fig. 1 presents an overview of BioAirNet Theme 2. This compendium aims to provide a comprehensive toolbox of current techniques, workflows, and technologies for bioaerosol sampling, characterisation, and monitoring across different environments for researchers, epidemiologists, regulators, public health officials and regulators involved in bioaerosols. The overall goal of this text is to support the development of useful standards to better regulate and monitor bioaerosols worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFunctional Microbiomes
EditorsDavid A. Bohan, Alex Dumbrell
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages129
ISBN (Print)9780323985932
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAdvances in Ecological Research
ISSN (Print)0065-2504

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by UKRI Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded projects: BioAirNet (NE/V002171/1), RAMBIE (NE/M010813/1) and BioSkyNet (NE/V008293/1). The research was supported by National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Exposures and Health, a partnership between UK Health Security Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the University of Leicester. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care or UK Health Security Agency. We thank Futurum for technical assistance with the graphic designs.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • Active and/or passive air sampling
  • Analysis of air samples
  • Bioaerosols
  • Human exposure and risk


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