Friday, 19 August 2011

Dog poo bacteria in the air

I apologise for the somewhat childish title to this post. It refers to a piece of research which most definitely fits into my 'other musings' category.

Here in the UK we are known as a nation of dog lovers. We do of course host the annual Crufts competition so as to celebrate our devoted four-legged friends. Whilst being man's best friend, there is some unpleasantness attached to dog ownership; things like cleaning up after their, ahem.. mess.

A new study by Robert Bowers and colleagues* published in the journal Applied & Environmental Microbiology suggests that such mess whilst not exactly great for the local pavement (US = sidewalk) might also be bad news for the local air quality at particular times of the year also. The study has received some coverage (here).

OK, apologies to any residents of Cleveland and Detroit, but apparently bacteria most likely derived from dog feces constitutes the dominant source of airborne bacteria in the Winter months in such places. Deep breath, mouth firmly closed (not that this will do much good).

I, like most people, never thought that bacteria in dog dirt on the ground might have the ability to become airborne. Indeed, bacteria are generally thought as being something present on floors, walls, doors and other surfaces rather than something we breathe in. Not so though as this report highlighted. As if to reiterate the point have a look at a report of a study on the fecal transport system here in the UK, including my locality; hence the age-old phrase 'now wash your hands'.

Of course the authors point out that much more research is needed to confirm the pooch as primary perpetrator and any onward effects to human health from such exposures. Whilst not wishing to force any connection to autism or anything else, I do find it interesting that our seasonal environment from a bacterial point of view might be quite fluid, and how this might perhaps tie into differing exposures and differing risk.


* Bowers RM. et al. Sources of bacteria in outdoor air across cities in the Midwestern United States. Applied & Environmental Microbiology. August 2011.