Climate Change Effects on Airborne Pathogenic Bioaerosol Concentrations

by Shaina Van Stryk

The presence of extreme atmospheric changes due to global warming has raised questions about possible secondary effects on public health. Climate change has been shown to affect meteorological conditions such as wind speed, global radiation, and humidity. The same meteorological conditions influence the concentrations and transmissions of a variety of airborne bacteria and viruses, which may establish the possibility of a relationship between climate change and airborne pathogenic bioaerosol concentrations.  

Environmental conditions that influence properties of pathogenic bioaerosols were examined in a recent study done by van Leukan et al. (2016), a team mostly from the Netherlands, a region heavily impacted by Q fever in cattle. The study used five climate scenarios for the time periods 2016–2045 and 2036–2065. They compared their findings to a historical time period of 1981–2010 by using atmospheric dispersion models (ADM) to determine the possible effects of global climate change on airborne pathogenic bioaerosol concentrations, such as the bacterium Coxiella burnetti associated with Q fever. The results showed that climate change did affect overall “modelled concentrations”. More specifically, the bacteria concentrations decreased in four out of the five scenarios, and showed the largest association with wind speed and global radiation. Hourly averaged effects were recorded and showed positive and negative fluctuation ranging from –67 to +639 percent. The study by van Leukan et al., shows that climate change does influence airborne pathogenic bioaerosol concentrations, which may differ depending on environmental and physical properties associated with specific viruses and bacteria.

van Leuken, J. P. G., Swart, A. N., Droogers, P., van Pul, A., Heederik, D., & Havelaar, A. H. (2016). Climate change effects on airborne pathogenic bioaerosol concentrations: a scenario analysis. Aerobiologia32(4), 607-617.



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