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Bacterial Viral and Fungal Diseases Transmissible Through Air
Human diseases caused by microorganisms can be classified as bacterial, viral and fungal disease based on the type of infectious microbe and classified as food borne, water borne, soil borne and air borne disease based on the nature of the medium (food, water, soil and air) through which these infectious agents enters the human system causing pathogenic diseases. Like drinking contaminated water, consuming spoiled food and contact with soil increases the chances of getting infected inhaling air with infectious microbe is also a major cause for concern for some of the harmful microbial diseases.

Breathing pure air is a challenging task in the present scenario as air is being polluted by various factors. Vehicular emissions and industrial emissions are the major source of air pollution contributing to the increased amount of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds, noxious gases and other suspended particles in the air. Apart from these physical and chemical pollutants there is microbial flora present in the air. Acromonium, Ascospores, Basidiospores, Cladosporium, Epicocum, Penicillium, Smut spores, Stachybotrys are examples of some of the reported microbes present in the air identified through air sampling. Let us see examples of some of the common, transmissible and airborne bacterial, viral and fungal diseases, treatment and prevention methods.

Airborne Bacterial Diseases
1.Whooping cough: Caused by Bordetella pertussis, a gram negative, aerobic, coccobacillus bacterium. The disease is prevented by vaccines like DTaP (childhood vaccination) and Tdap (booster dose in adulthood). The symptoms of the disease are managed with antibiotics.

2.Meningitis: Caused by Gram negative, diplococcus bacteria, Neisseria meningitidis. A person acquires this bacterium by kissing infected person and inhaling the air containing this infectious agent. This bacterium infects the protective layer of the affected individual’s brain and causes inflammation. MCV4 and MPSV4 are the vaccines available.

3.Diphtheria: Caused by corynebacterium diphtheria, a Gram positive, facultative anaerobic bacterium. Antibiotics like Metronidazole, procaine penicillin G and erythromycin are used to manage the symptoms and it is prevented with the help of the DPT vaccine.

4.Pneumonia: This is condition of inflammation of the lungs caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae (Gram positive, alpha hemolytic). Pneumococcal vaccine which is pneumococcal polysaccharide and conjugated bacteria is used to prevent the disease.

5.Tuberculosis: Bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis targets the lungs on entering the human body and causes tuberculosis. The infected individual is given antibiotics like isoniazid, rifampicin based on the symptoms and the disease can be prevented with BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) vaccine.

Airborne Viral Diseases
1.Chickenpox: The virus of the herpes virus species called as Varicella zoster virus is the microbe responsible for chickenpox. Involuntary actions like coughing and sneezing by an infected person release this virus into air and a person inhaling the air gets infected. Varicella vaccine, Zostavax is the preventive tool.

2.Influenza: Caused by Influenza viruses of the group RNA viruses under the family Orthomyxoviridae. A person gets infected either by being present near an affected person or through contact with droppings of birds as this virus is infectious to both birds and mammals. Trivalent Influenza Vaccine (TIV) shot prevent the infection and drugs like Tamiflu is prescribed to the infected person.

3.Measles: Enveloped, single stranded negative sense RNA virus called as Paramyxovirus belonging to the genus Morbillivirus causes Measles and the disease is prevented with a shot of MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine.

4.SARS: This is a type of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome caused by infection with the SARS corona virus and its pathogenicity is seen in birds as well as mammals. Identifying and isolating the infected person is the best way to prevent SARS. Supplementing oxygen, providing ventilation and administering antipyretics drugs to the infected person are the practiced methods in managing the disease.

Airborne Fungal Diseases
1.Aspergillosis: Fungal species of the genus Aspergillus seem to be present both in the outdoor and indoor environment is responsible for the disease Aspergillosis and individual with weakened immune system is more prone to this pathogen. This fungus targets the lungs and also known to develop some allergic reaction.

2.Cryptococcosis: The fungal spores of the genus Cryptococcus, the Cryptococcus neoformans present in air is responsible for lung infection and may also affect the brain by causing inflammation.

Thus the above discussed pathogens and the types of disease caused by them makes clear that infectious agents not only spread through contaminated water and spoiled food but also through the omnipresent air and people with weak immune system becomes the first victims of these diseases.
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Airborne pathogens are main cause of many epidemic diseases.
Below is the list of such airborne pathogens, their group,disease status and primary source:-


Parvovirus B19, VIRUS, anemia, Contagious, Humans
Rhinovirus, VIRUS, colds, Contagious, Humans
Coxsackievirus, VIRUS colds, Contagious, Humans
Echovirus, VIRUS, colds, Contagious, Humans
Hantavirus VIRUS Hantavirus Non cont., rodents
Togavirus VIRUS rubella Contagious, Humans
Reovirus VIRUS colds Contagious Humans
Adenovirus VIRUS colds Contagious Humans

Orthomyxovirus - Influenza VIRUS flu,Contagious Humans, birds
Coronavirus VIRUS colds Contagious Humans
Morbillivirus VIRUS measles Contagious Humans
Varicella-zoster VIRUS chickenpox Contagious Humans
Arenavirus - Junin VIRUS hemmorhagic Contagious rodents
Arenavirus - Lassa VIRUS Lassa fever Contagious rodents
Filovirus - VIRUS,hemmorhagic fever Contagious rodents

Parainfluenza VIRUS flu Contagious Humans
Respiratory Syncytial Virus VIRUS pneumonia Contagious Humans
Poxvirus - Variola VIRUS smallpox (extinct) Contagious Humans
Poxvirus - Vaccinia VIRUS cowpox Non Agricultural
Monkeypox VIRUS monkeypox Contagious Monkeys
Paramyxovirus VIRUS mumps Contagious Humans
Francisella tularensis BACTERIA tularemia Non wild animals
Bordetella pertussis BACTERIA whooping cough Contagious Humans

Mycoplasma pneumoniae BACTERIA pneumonia Contagious Humans
Chlamydia pneumoniae BACTERIA pneumonia, bronchitis Contagious Humans
Chlamydia psittaci BACTERIA psittacosis Non Birds
Klebsiella pneumoniae BACTERIA opportunistic infections Endogenous Environmental
Haemophilus influenzae BACTERIA meningitis Contagious Humans
Coxiella burnetii BACTERIA Q Fever Non Cattle, sheep
Pseudomonas aeruginosa BACTERIA opportunistic infections Contagious Environmental
Pseudomonas pseudomallei BACTERIA opportunistic infections Non Environmental

Actinomyces israelii BACTERIA actinomycosis Endogenous Humans
Legionella parisiensis BACTERIA pneumonia(?) Non Environmental
Legionella pneumophila BACTERIA LD, Pontiac fever Non Environmental
Saccharomonospora viridis ACTINOMYCETES Farmer's Lung Non Agricultural
Thermomonospora viridis ACTINOMYCETES Farmer's Lung, HP Non Agricultural
Cardiobacterium BACTERIA opportunistic infections Endogenous Humans
Micropolyspora faeni ACTINOMYCETES Farmer's Lung Non Agricultural
Thermoactinomyces sacchari ACTINOMYCETES bagassosis, HP Non Agricultural

Alkaligenes BACTERIA opportunistic infections Endogenous Humans
Yersinia pestis BACTERIA pneumonic plague Contagious Rodents
Pseudomonas cepacia BACTERIA nonrespiratory airborne(?) Non Environmental
Pseudomonas mallei BACTERIA opportunistic infections Non Environmental
Enterobacter cloacae BACTERIA nonrespiratory airborne(?) Contagious Humans
Enterococcus BACTERIA nonrespiratory airborne(?) Contagious Humans
Neisseria meningitidis BACTERIA meningitis Endogenous Humans
Streptococcus faecalis BACTERIA nonrespiratory airborne(?) Contagious Humans

Streptococcus pyogenes BACTERIA scarlet fever, pharyngitis Contagious Humans
Mycobacterium kansasii BACTERIA cavitary pulmonary Non unknown
Mycobacterium tuberculosis BACTERIA TB Contagious Humans
Streptococcus pneumoniae BACTERIA pneumonia, otitis media Contagious Humans
Staphylococcus aureus BACTERIA opportunistic infections Endogenous Humans
Staphylococcus epidermis BACTERIA nonrespiratory airborne(?) Endogenous Humans
Corynebacteria diphtheria BACTERIA diptheria Contagious Humans
Clostridium tetani BACTERIA nonrespiratory airborne(?) Non Environmental
(?) : Mixed confirmation.

Such air borne pathogens control is important, and today many organisations like WHO is taking care of it. Many resistant bugs are found and controlling them is a new challenge for Science. Let us all fight with them jointly by strictly adhering to regulations and other standards set for antibiotic use!
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Influenza vaccine

The previous article gives a useful overview on airborne infectious agents and the vaccines and drugs that are available currently to counter them. One of the infections mentioned is the influenza virus, for which the articles mentions the Trivalent Influenza Vaccine (TIV) is available. However, there are challenges in administering an effective influenza vaccination programme each year which are inherent to the nature of the influenza virus. These challenges are chiefly due to the high mutation rate of the virus, necessitating new variations of the vaccine to be produced every year. There are also issues with ensuring an adequate global supply of influenza vaccine, which is essential in view of its potential to cause pandemics and its danger in particular for vulnerable groups such as the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes. Thus interest is high in trying to develop a universal influenza vaccine against different viral subtypes.

The natural immune response to influenza virus is primarily mediated via antibody responses to surface proteins including haemagglutinin (HA) and this is the main basis for the influenza vaccine. However, a strong T cell response is also mounted to internal viral proteins in cases where disease severity is limited. Recent research aimed at trying to develop a universal vaccine against different influenza subtypes has focused on the possibility of boosting memory T cell responses to internal influenza antigens in order to provide help to the antibody responses. Also, the relatively conserved stem region of HA has prompted interest in developing the potential to use broadly neutralising antibodies to contribute to a universal vaccine. The fight continues to develop the armoury in the fight against influenza vaccine.


LI, C.K., RAPPUOLI, R. and XU, X., 2013. Correlates of protection against influenza infection in humans-on the path to a universal vaccine? Current opinion in immunology, 25(4), pp. 470-476
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