Airborne Pathogens: Elusive and Dangerous

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The study of airborne pathogens is complex, but people of every education level know that air quality is important, and that germs let loose in the air can lead to infection of millions of people. Indeed, the issue of air quality and safety is widespread, says Jeffrey Cirillo, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Microbial and Molecular Pathogenesis at Texas A&M University System Health Science Center.

“I believe that the average person is aware of the importance of air quality because it is an issue that everyone discusses on a daily basis — smog reports, environmental protection, infections in air,” Cirillo said. “In my discussions with people it seems clear that everyone understands that if you can’t breathe, you are in trouble.”

The threat of airborne pathogens should be taken “very seriously” because air is the most efficient route by which pathogens can gain access to a large number of people, according to Cirillo. “Epidemic-causing pathogens can often spread by the airborne route for just this reason and efficiency of transmission is one of the most important characteristics that should be considered when evaluating how large an impact infectious diseases can have,” he adds.

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