Airborne prokaryote and virus abundance over the red sea

Razan Z. Yahya, Jesús M. Arrieta, Michael Cusack, Carlos M. Duarte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Aeolian dust exerts a considerable influence on atmospheric and oceanic conditions negatively impacting human health, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions like Saudi Arabia. Aeolian dust is often characterized by its mineral and chemical composition; however, there is a microbiological component of natural aerosols that has received comparatively little attention. Moreover, the amount of materials suspended in the atmosphere is highly variable from day to day. Thus, understanding the variability of atmospheric dust loads and suspended microbes throughout the year is essential to clarify the possible effects of dust on the Red Sea ecosystem. Here, we present the first estimates of dust and microbial loads at a coastal site on the Red Sea over a 2-year period, supplemented with measurements from dust samples collected along the Red Sea basin in offshore waters. Weekly average dust loads from a coastal site on the Red Sea ranged from 4.6 to 646.11 μg m−3, while the abundance of airborne prokaryotic cells and viral-like particles (VLPs) ranged from 77,967 to 1,203,792 cells m−3 and from 69,615 to 3,104,758 particles m−3, respectively. To the best of our knowledge, these are the first estimates of airborne microbial abundance in this region. The elevated concentrations of resuspended dust particles and suspended microbes found in the air indicate that airborne microbes may potentially have a large impact on human health and on the Red Sea ecosystem.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - May 31 2019

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: This research was supported by funding supplied by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology to CD.


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