Microbiological and meteorological analysis of two Australian dust storms in April 2009

Natalie Lim, Chris I. Munday, Gwen E. Allison*, Tadhg O'Loingsigh, Patrick De Deckker, Nigel J. Tapper

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    30 Citations (Scopus)


    Dust is an important source of bioaerosols including bacteria. In this study, the microbiology and meteorology of specific dust storms in Australia were investigated. The samples were collected from two dust events in April 2009 that were characterised by intense cold fronts that entrained dust from the highly erodible and drought-stricken Mallee and Riverina regions of Victoria and central NSW. In the first storm, the dust travelled eastward over Canberra and Sydney, and in the second storm, the dust travelled east/southeastward over Canberra and Melbourne. Rain fell on both cities during the second dust storm. Dust and rain samples were collected, cultured, and the composition compared using polymerase chain reaction denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE). Multiple bands were evident on DGGE indicative of a diverse microflora, and identification of several bands confirmed the presence of multiple genera and species representing three phyla. Numerous bands represented Bacillus species, and these were present in multiple dust samples collected from both Canberra and Melbourne. Interestingly, the microflora present in rain samples collected in Canberra during the second dust storm was quite different and the DGGE banding patterns from these samples clustered separately to most dust samples collected at the same time. Identification of several DGGE bands and PCR products from these rain samples indicated the presence of Pseudomonas species. These results indicate that Australian dust and rain have a diverse microflora and highlights the contribution of dust events to the distribution of microbes in the environment.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)223-231
    Number of pages9
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2011


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