Evaluation of the Airborne Bacterial Population in the Periodically Confined Antarctic Base Concordia

Rob Van Houdt, Patrick De Boever, Ilse Coninx, Claire Le Calvez, Roberto Dicasillati, Jacques Mahillon, Max Mergeay, Natalie Leys, Mario Moors, Pieter Monsieurs

    Research outputpeer-review


    The environmental airborne bacterial population iin relation to human confinement was investigated over a period of 1 year in the Concordia Research Station, which is located on the Eastern Antarctic plateau. The unique location of the station makes it suitable for different research domains such as glaciology, atmospheric sciences, astronomy, etc. Furthermore, it is used as a test bed for long-duration spaceflights to study the physiologic and psychological adaptation to isolated environments. A total of 96 samples were collected at eight different locations in the station at regular intervals. The airborne bacterial contamination was for 90% of the samples lower than 10.0×102 colony-forming units per cubic meter of air (CFU/m3) and the total bacterial contamination increased over time during confinement but diminished after reopening of the base. Viable airborne bacteria with different morphology were identified by biochemical analyses. The predominant microflora was identified as Staphylococcus sp. (24.9% of total) and Bacillus sp. (11.6% of total) and was associated with human activity, but also environmental species such as Sphingomonas paucimobilis (belonging to the α-Proteobacteria) could establish themselves in the airborne population. A few opportunistic pathogens (6%) were also identified.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)640-648
    JournalMicrobial Ecology
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - May 2009

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