Vacuum Dust Contains Potentially Harmful Bacteria

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

The aerosolized dust generated by vacuums contains bacteria and mold that could have harmful effects for infants, people with allergies and those with compromised immunity, according to a new study published this month in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The researchers from the University of Queensland and Laval University used a special clean air wind tunnel to measure vacuum emissions from 21 vacuums of varying quality and age.

The clean air wind tunnel allowed researchers to eliminate other sources of particles and bacteria, said study leader Dr. Luke Knibbs of the University of Queensland.

“That way, we could confidently attribute the things we measured purely to the vacuum cleaner.”

Among the study’s more troubling findings were resistance genes for five common antibiotics identified in the sampled bacteria, along with the Clostridium botulinum toxin gene.

This is of particular concern because previous studies have found that dust found indoors could act as a vehicle for infant botulism infection that can have severe consequences, including sudden infant death syndrome, the researchers said.

The current study reinforces previous research that found human skin and hair to be important sources of bacteria in floor dust and indoor air, which can be readily re-suspended and inhaled, said study co-author Caroline Duchaine at Laval University in Canada.

Vacuum cleaners are “underrepresented in indoor aerosol and bioaerosol assessment and should be considered, especially when assessing cases of allergy, asthma, or infectious diseases without known environmental reservoirs for the pathogenic or causative microbe,” she said.

Knibbs said he hopes other studies will follow this one, raising the profile of potential indoor sources of culprits in unsolved medical cases.

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