Bacterial Communities in Commercial Aircraft High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filters Assessed by PhyloChip Analysis.
Air travel can rapidly transport infectious diseases globally. To facilitate the design of biosensors for infectious organisms in commercial aircraft, we characterized bacterial diversity in aircraft air. Samples from 61aircraft High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters were analyzed with a custom microarray of 16S rRNA gene sequences (PhyloChip), representing bacterial lineages. 606subfamilies from 41 phyla were detected. The most abundant bacterial subfamilies included bacteria associated with humans, especially skin, gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, and with water and soilhabitats. Operational taxonomic units that contain important human pathogens as well as their close, more benign relatives were detected. When compared to 43 samples of urban outdoor air, aircraft samples differed in composition, with higher relative abundance of Firmicutes and Gammaproteobacteria lineages in aircraft samples, and higher relative abundance of Actinobacteriaand Betaproteobacterialineages in outdoor air samples. In addition, aircraft and outdoor air samplesdiffered in the incidence of taxa containing human pathogens. Overall, these results demonstrate that HEPA filter samples can be used to deeply characterize bacterial diversity in aircraft air, and suggest that the presence of close relatives of certain pathogens must be taken into account in probe design for aircraft biosensors. 2012 John Wiley & Sons A/S.