Global Patterns and Climatic Controls of Dust-Associated Microbial Communities

Microbiol Spectr. 2021 Oct 13:e0144721. doi: 10.1128/Spectrum.01447-21. Online ahead of print.


The ubiquity and long-range transport of the microorganisms inhabiting dust can pose a serious risk to human, animal, and plant health. The well-recognized importance of dust-associated microorganisms contrasts starkly with our limited understanding of the factors determining the variation in the composition of these communities at the global scale. Here, we provide the first insight into the global determinants of dust-associated microorganisms by quantifying the environmental factors shaping bacterial and fungal community composition in 467 outdoor settled dust samples collected from 33 countries and 6 continents. Our results show that the global variation in dust-associated bacterial and fungal community composition was, to some degree, predictable from mean annual precipitation and temperature. Notably, our results show that the fungal genera Alternaria and Aspergillus, which contain many species that can serve as triggers of allergenic disease in humans and as plant pathogens, were more abundant in drier regions. Collectively, these results highlight the key influence of climate on the global distribution of dust-associated microorganisms and provide the baseline information needed to build a more comprehensive understanding of how microbial exposures vary across the globe and in response to climate change. IMPORTANCE A broad diversity of microorganisms can be found in dust, with some of these microorganisms capable of causing allergenic disease in human via inhalation or affecting plant health by acting as plant pathogens. However, the spatial variation in dust microbiomes and the environmental factors associated with this variation have not been comprehensively assessed at the global scale. Here, we investigated the bacteria and fungi found in outdoor settled dust samples spanning 33 countries and 6 continents. Our results show that dust-associated bacteria and fungi exhibit climate-driven variability in community composition at the global scale. Our results call for the development of strategies to predict the geographic distribution of dust-associated microorganisms and to identify the potential associations between microbial exposures and the health of humans, animals, and plants.

PMID:34643450 | DOI:10.1128/Spectrum.01447-21

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