International Journal of Biometeorology
School of Science
Alternaria is a plant pathogen and human allergen. Alternaria alternata is one of the most abundant fungal spores in the air. The purpose of this study was to examine whether Alternaria spp. spore concentrations can be used to predict the abundance and spatio-temporal pattern of A. alternata spores in the air. This was investigated by testing the hypothesis that A. alternata dominates airborne Alternaria spp. spores and varies spatio-temporally. Secondarily, we aimed at investigating the relationship between airborne Alternaria spp. spores and the DNA profile of A. alternata spores between two proximate (~ 7 km apart) sites. These were examined by sampling Alternaria spp. spores using Burkard 7-day and cyclone samplers for the period 2016–2018 at Worcester and Lakeside campuses of the University of Worcester, UK. Daily Alternaria spp. spores from the Burkard traps were identified using optical microscopy whilst A. alternata from the cyclone samples was detected and quantified using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR). The results showed that either A. alternata or other Alternaria species spores dominate the airborne Alternaria spore concentrations, generally depending on weather conditions. Furthermore, although Alternaria spp. spore concentrations were similar for the two proximate sites, A. alternata spore concentrations significantly varied for those sites and it is highly likely that the airborne samples contained large amounts of small fragments of A. alternata. Overall, the study shows that there is a higher abundance of airborne Alternaria allergen than reported by aerobiological networks and the majority is likely to be from spore and hyphal fragments.
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