Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

First high-altitude device to help detect health threats from the sky

Date:
December 17, 2013
Source:
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Summary:
A researcher is using the first ever high-altitude sampling device designed to collect microorganisms from the upper atmosphere, to examine the massive dust clouds that roll into Florida from Africa each year. He's looking to see if the latest plant, animal or human health threats will come from the sky.

An F-104 Starfighter jet lands at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Tuesday after completing the maiden flight of a device known as Dust at Altitude Recovery Technology, or DART, which is being used to sample African dust in Florida’s atmosphere for potential pathogens of humans, plants and animals. The DART is the red, cylindrical device shown attached to the jet.
Credit: UF/IFAS photo by Tyler L. Jones

A University of Florida researcher is exploring whether the latest plant, animal or human health threats will come from the sky.

Using the first ever high-altitude sampling device designed to collect microorganisms from the upper atmosphere, Andrew Schuerger, an aerobiologist with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will examine the massive dust clouds that roll into Florida from Africa each year.

The maiden flight of the device, known as Dust at Altitude Recovery Technology or DART, was flown on an F-104 Starfighter jet Dec. 3 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

Schuerger, a member of UF's plant pathology department, will work to identify the frequency and types of microbes in African dust, including whether pathogens are present, and hopes the research will lead to computer models for predicting future disease outbreaks.

"There's a tremendous amount of African dust that comes into the U.S. each year, approximately 50 million metric tons annually," Schuerger said. "And very little is known about the microbial diversity in that dust, in general, but also in particular whether they're plant, animal or human pathogens."

Previous dust collection devices were deployed on tops of tall buildings or towers, but never able to fly through several layers of dust, as does the DART device -- strapped under the F-104's wing.

A few published research papers show that plant and human pathogens can be found in the African dust plumes that move across the Atlantic Ocean, Schuerger said, but they've never been collected and tested to see if the suspected pathogens cause disease symptoms in susceptible hosts.

"Once we understand the time and spatial distribution of the microbes in the dust, we can begin to model health risk for agricultural crops, forests, estuaries, animals, and human populations in cities," he said.

Microbes found in African dust plumes include Bacillus megaterium, Serratia liquefaciens, and species of Streptomyces and Pseudomonas, all of which can be potential plant or human pathogens.

The DART device is cylindrical, about 7 feet long, and has a series of scoops in its nosecone that are controlled by a scientist sitting in the jet's co-pilot seat. The scientist can switch the scoop doors open or closed at designated times to collect air samples on separate filters inside the wing-mounted system.

Tuesday's flight tested the DART device's collection mechanisms and took samples at 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 feet and at two different air speeds. A full sampling program is slated to begin in 2014 when the dust storms normally hit Florida in July, August and September.

The research also has implications for future spaceflight missions because spacecraft are assembled under strict sanitation protocols to avoid transferring Earth microorganisms to other planetary bodies, such as Mars or Europa.

"If there are unique microbes coming in with heavy dust storms, protocols for assembling or transporting spacecraft from their assembly buildings to their launch pads may need to be changed," Schuerger said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The original article was written by Robert H Wells. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "First high-altitude device to help detect health threats from the sky." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217155221.htm>.
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (2013, December 17). First high-altitude device to help detect health threats from the sky. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217155221.htm
University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "First high-altitude device to help detect health threats from the sky." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217155221.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) British researchers were able to use Mount Everest's low altitudes to study insulin resistance. They hope to find ways to treat diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins