Detection of bacteriophage and respiratory viruses in droplets

Perrott, Phillipa Evelyn (2011) Detection of bacteriophage and respiratory viruses in droplets. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Influenza is a widespread disease occurring in seasonal epidemics, and each year is responsible for up to 500,000 deaths worldwide. Influenza can develop into strains which cause severe symptoms and high mortality rates, and could potentially reach pandemic status if the virus’ properties allow easy transmission. Influenza is transmissible via contact with the virus, either directly (infected people) or indirectly (contaminated objects); via reception of large droplets over short distances (one metre or less); or through inhalation of aerosols containing the virus expelled by infected individuals during respiratory activities, that can remain suspended in the air and travel distances of more than one metre (the aerosol route). Aerosol transmission of viruses involves three stages: production of the droplets containing viruses; transport of the droplets and ability of a virus to remain intact and infectious; and reception of the droplets (via inhalation). Our understanding of the transmission of influenza viruses via the aerosol route is poor, and thus our ability to prevent a widespread outbreak is limited. This study explored the fate of viruses in droplets by investigating the effects of some physical factors on the recovery of both a bacteriophage model and influenza virus. Experiments simulating respiratory droplets were carried out using different types of droplets, generated from a commonly used water-like matrix, and also from an ‘artificial mucous’ matrix which was used to more closely resemble respiratory fluids. To detect viruses in droplets, we used the traditional plaque assay techniques, and also a sensitive, quantitative PCR assay specifically developed for this study. Our results showed that the artificial mucous suspension enhanced the recovery of infectious bacteriophage. We were able to report detection limits of infectious bacteriophage (no bacteriophage was detected by the plaque assay when aerosolised from a suspension of 103 PFU/mL, for three of the four droplet types tested), and that bacteriophage could remain infectious in suspended droplets for up to 20 minutes. We also showed that the nested real-time PCR assay was able to detect the presence of bacteriophage RNA where the plaque assay could not detect any intact particles. Finally, when applying knowledge from the bacteriophage experiments, we reported the quantitative recoveries of influenza viruses in droplets, which were more consistent and stable than we had anticipated. Influenza viruses can be detected up to 20 minutes (after aerosolisation) in suspended aerosols and possibly beyond. It also was detectable from nebulising suspensions with relatively low concentrations of viruses.

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ID Code: 46706
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Hargreaves, Megan, Harding, Robert, & Ristovski, Zoran
Keywords: influenza, respiratory viruses, bacteriophage, aerosols, airborne transmission, nested real-time PCR
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 28 Oct 2011 05:32
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 05:32

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