Help needed to pinpoint airborne perpetrators

Help needed to pinpoint airborne perpetrators

As spring comes into full force, researchers are looking past pollen to what other airborne perpetrators are impacting on asthma and allergy sufferers across the State.

The research, carried out by the Menzies Institute for Medical Research’s AirRater Team, will look at how airborne bacteria and fungi – the ‘aerial microbiome’ – varies across Hobart and what that might mean for our health.

“As well as pollen, a range of other organisms are floating in the air, including many types of fungal spore and bacteria,” research lead Dr Penelope Jones said.

“We have increasing evidence that many of these airborne bacteria and fungi can also affect our respiratory health, which is unsurprising considering we inhale thousands of these particles with every breath!

“What we don’t know are the types of airborne fungal spores and bacteria in Tasmania, and how they affect local asthma and allergy sufferers.”

The study involves taking samples of dust from the inside and outside of thirty homes across Hobart, as well as soils from gardens, and looking at which types of bacteria, fungi and pollen are present.

A team of 10 volunteers will then be asked to collect samples of the aerial microbiome they are exposed to in their day-to-day life and to log their asthma and allergy symptoms using the AirRater smartphone app, a free app for asthma and allergy sufferers designed by the research team.

Researchers will then look at how the aerial microbiome relates to those symptoms.

“Ultimately, the team hopes this will support a better understanding of how different components of the aerial microbiome might be affecting the Tasmanian community,” Dr Jones said.

The team hopes to follow up on this pilot study with a larger, more comprehensive research project in 2020.

For more information or to volunteer, contact: or call 1800 322 102.