Passive air sampling: the use of the index of microbial air contamination

Main Article Content

Isabella Viani
Maria Eugenia Colucci
Massimiliano Pergreffi
Deanna Rossi
Licia Veronesi
Assunta Bizzarro
Emanuela Capobianco
Paola Affanni
Roberta Zoni
Elisa Saccani
Roberto Albertini
Cesira Pasquarella


air sampling, bioaerosol, IMA, Indoor, Outdoor, Passive method


Background: Bioaerosol plays an important role in human life with potentially infectious, allergic and toxic effects. Active and passive methods can be used to assess microbial air contamination, but so far there is not a unanimous consensus regarding the indications about methods to be used and how to interpret the results. The passive method has been standardized by the Index of Microbial Air contamination (IMA). Classes of contamination and maximum acceptable levels of IMA have been proposed, related to different infection or contamination risks. The aim of this study was to provide information about the use of the passive sampling method, with reference to the IMA standard. Methods: We searched PubMed and Scopus for articles published until January 2020 reporting the citation of the article by Pasquarella et al. “The index of microbial air contamination. J Hosp Infect 2000”. Only studies in English language where the IMA standard was applied were considered. Studies regarding healthcare settings were excluded. Results: 27 studies were analyzed; 12 were performed in Europe, 8 in Asia, 5 in Africa, 2 in America. Cultural heritage sites, educational buildings and food industries were the most common indoor monitored environments; in 8 studies outdoor air was monitored. Conclusions: This review has provided a picture of the application of standard IMA in different geographic areas and different environments at risk of airborne infection/contamination. The analysis of the results obtained, together with a wider collection of data, will provide a useful contribution towards the definition of reference limits for the various types of environments to implement targeted preventive measures.


Download data is not yet available.
Abstract 1718 | PDF Downloads 875


1. Douwes J, Thorne P, Pearce N, Heederik D. Bioaerosols health effects and exposure assessment: progress and perspectives. Ann Occup Hyg 2003; 47(3): 187-200.
2. Kim KH, Kabir E, Jahan SA. Airborne bioaerosols and their impact on human health. J Environ Sci 2018; 67: 23-35.
3. Lai Km, Emberlin J, Colbeck J. Outdoor environments and human pathogens in the air. Environ Health 2009; 8(Suppl 1): S15.
4. Mora M, Mahnert A, Koskinen K, Pausan MR, Oberauner -Wappis L, et al. Microorganisms in Confined Habitats: Microbial Monitoring and Control of Intensive Care Units, Operating Rooms, Cleanrooms and the International Space Station. Front Microbiol 2016; 7:1573.
5. Mandrioli P, Caneva G, Sabbioni C. Cultural heritage and aerobiology. Methods and measurement techniques for biodeterioration monitoring. Kluver, Dordrecht. 2003.
6. Pasquarella C, Albertini R, Saccani E, Sansebastiano G. Air microbial sampling: the state of the art. Ig Sanita Pubbl 2008; 64(1):79-120.
7. Pitzurra M, Savino A, Pasquarella C. Microbiological environment monitoring (MEM). Ann Ig 1997; 9(6): 439-454.
8. Istituto Nazionale Assicurazione Infortuni sul Lavoro. Il monitoraggio microbiologico negli ambienti di lavoro - Campionamento e analisi. 2010.
9. ISO 14698-1. Cleanrooms and associated controlled environments—biocontamination control. Part 1: general principles and methods; 2003.
10. Pasquarella C, Pitzurra O, Savino A. The Index of microbial air contamination. J Hosp Inf 2000; 46:241-256.
11. Guerrera E, Frusteri L, Giovinazzo R, Mariani M. Presenza del rischio nelle falegnamerie umbre. G Ital Med Lav Erg 2006; 28 (4) 466-471.
12. Garcia JCR. Evaluación aeromicrobiológica del depósito del Centro de Documentació del Museo Nacional de la Música de Cuba. Ge-Conservación 2016; (9): 117-126.
13. Coelho AIM, Milagres RCRM, Martins JFL, Cordeiro de Azeredo RM, Campos Santana AMC. Contaminaçao microbiológica de ambientes e de superfícies em restaurantes comerciais. Ciéncia & Saude Coletiva 2010; 15 (Suppl. 1): 1597-1606.
14. Morais GR, da Silva MA, de Carvalho MC, Dos Santos JGS, von Dolinger EJO, de Brito DVD. Qualidade do ar interno em uma Instituiçao de ensino superior brasileira. Biosci. J. 2010; 26(2): 305-310.
15. Schleibinger H, Laubmann D, Eis D, Samwer H, Mickelmann A, Ruden H. Discrimination between mouldy and non-mouldy homes with the detection of settling mould spores (OPD method). Results of a field study in greater Berlin, Germany. Umweltmedizin in Forschung und Praxis 2004; 9 (5): 289-297.
16. Bidaki MZ, Yazdanbakhsh A, Mohasel MA, Ghazi M. Comparing the effects of deep and surface aeration methods on density and type of airborne bacteria and fungi in municipal waste water treatment plant. J Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences 2019; 29 (174):121-133.
17. Okraszewska-Lasica W, Bolton DJ, Sheridan JJ, McDowell DA. Airborne Salmonella and Listeria associated with Irish commercial beef, sheep and pig plants. Meat Science 2014; 97: 255-261.
18. Pasquarella C, Sansebastiano GE, Saccani E, Ugolotti M, Mariotti F, Boccuni C et al. Proposal for an integrated approach to microbial environmental monitoring in cultural heritage: experience at the Correggio exhibition in Parma. Aerobiologia 2011; 27: 203-211.
19. Pasquarella C, Saccani E, Sansebastiano GE, Ugolotti M, Pasquariello G, Albertini R. Proposal for a biological environmental monitoring approach to be used in libraries and archives. Ann Agric Environ Med. 2012; 19: 209-212.
20. Lamonaca F, Pizzuti G, Arcuri N, Palemo AM, Morello R. Monitoring of environmental parameters and pollution by fungal spores in the National Gallery of Cosenza: a case study. Measurement 2014; 47:1001-1007.
21. Pasquarella C, Balocco C, Pasquariello G, Petrone G, Saccani E, Manotti P et al. A multidisciplinary approach to the study of cultural heritage environments: experience at the Palatina Library in Parma. Sci Total Environ. 2015; 536: 557-567.
22. Micheluz A, Manente S, Tigini V, Prigione V, Pinzari F, Ravagnan G et al. The extreme environment of a library: Xerophilic fungi inhabiting indoor niches. Int Biodeterior. Biodegrad. 2015; 99: 1-7.
23. Okpalanozie OE, Adebusoye SA, Troiano F, Catto’ C, Ilori MO, Cappitelli F. Assessment of indoor air environment of a Nigerian museum library and its biodeteriorated books using culture-dependent and independent techniques. Int. Biodeterior. Biodegrad. 2018; 132:139-149.
24. Pasquarella C, Balocco C, Saccani E, Capobianco E, Viani I, Veronesi L. Biological and microclimatic monitoring for conservation of cultural heritage: a case study at the De Rossi room of the Palatina library in Parma. Aerobiologia 2019.
25. Awad A.H.A, Saeed Y, Shakour AA, Abdellatif NM, Ibrahim YH, Elghanam M, Elwakeel F. Indoor air fungal pollution of a historical museum, Egypt: a case study. Aerobiologia 2020.
26. Di Giulio M, Grande R, Di Campli E, Di Bartolomeo S, Cellini L. Indoor air quality in university environments Environ Monit Assess 2010; 170: 509-517.
27. Chong ETJ, Faizin KAK, Goh LPW, Lee P-C. Assessment of indoor airborne microorganisms in a densely populated Malaysian Public University. Malaysian J of Public Health Medicine 2017; (2) 113-120.
28. Sonmez E, Ozdemir HM, Cem EM, Sonmez Y, Salacin S, Ismail OC et al. Microbiological detection of bacteria and fungi in the autopsy room. Rom J Leg Med 2011; 19:33-44.
29. Scholtz I, Siyoum N. Korsten L. Penicillium air mycoflora in postharvest fruit handling environments associated with the pear export chain. Postharvest Biology and Technology 2017; 128: 153-160.
30. Tasaki T, Kojima M, Suzuki Y, Tatematsu Y, Sasaki H. Creating and stable short-term housing environment for rabbits in a cargo van. J Am Ass Lab Animal Science. 2019; 58 (4):456-461.
31. Vella FM, Laratta B. UV-based evaluation of ergosterol for monitoring the fungal exposure in Italian buffalo farms. FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2017; 364 (22): 1-6.
32. Faridi S, Hassanvand MS, Naddafi K, Yunesian M, Nabizadeh R, Sowlat M H, et al. Indoor/outdoor relationships of bioaerosol concentrations in a retirement home and a school dormitory. Environ Sci Pollut Res 2014.
33. Onchang R, Panyakapo M. The physical environments and microbiological contamination in three different fitness centres and the participants' expectations: Measurement and analysis. Indoor Built Environ 2016; 25(1): 213-228.
34. Asefa DT, Langsrud S, Gjerde RO, Kure CF, Sidhu MS, Nesbakken T et al. The performance of SAS-super-180 air sampler and settle plates for assessing viable fungal particles in the air of dry-cured meat production facility. Food Control 2009; 20: 997 – 1001.
35. Ithnin A, Shakirin M, Yusuf NM, Rahman SAA, Halim AA. Study on air quality and influences on human respiratory health among residents who occupy buildings at former landfill site. Nature Environment and Pollution Technology 2015; 14 (2) 385-390.
36. Benami M, Busgang A, Gillor O, Gross A. Quantification and risks associated with bacterial aerosols near domestic greywater-treatment systems. Sci Total Environ. 2016; 562: 344-352.
37. Hai WD, Hoang SMT, Hung NTQ, Ky NM, Gwi-Nam B, Ki-Hong P at al. Characteristics of airborne bacteria and fungi in the atmosphere in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – a case study over three years. Int Biodet Biodegr 2019; 145.
38. Hayleeyesus SF, Ejeso A, Derseh FA. Quantitative assessment of bio-aerosols contamination in indoor air of University dormitory rooms. Int J Health Sci 2015; 9(3) 249-256.
39. Lipsa FD, Ulea E, Chiriac IP. Monitoring of fungal aerosols in some educational buildings from Iaşi Romania. Environ Engineering Management J 2016; 4:801-807.
40. Seong D, Norman RS, Hoque S. Influence of indoor conditions on microbial diversity and quantity in schools. E3S Web of Conferences 111, 01035 CLIMA 2019.
41. Andualem Z, Gizaw Z, Dagne H. Indoor culturable fungal load and associated factors among public primary school classrooms in Gondar City, Northwest Ethiopia, 2018: a cross-sectional study. Ethiop J Health Sci 2019; 29(5) 623-630.
42. Anaya M, Gámez-Espinosa E, Falco AS, Benítez E, Carballo G. Characterization of indoor air mycobiota of two locals in a food industry, Cuba. Air Qual Atmos Health 2019
43. Ejdys E, Dynowska M, Biedunkiewicz A, Sucharzewska E. An overview of the species of Fungi occurring in school rooms- a four-year study. Pol J Stud 2013; 6: 1691-1700.
44. Meireles A, Fulgêncio R, Machado I, Mergulhão F, Melo L, Simões M. Characterization of the heterotrophic bacteria from a minimally processed vegetables plant. Foof Science and Technology 2017; (85) 293-300.
45. Omelyansky VL 1940 Manual in Microbiology, USSR Academy of Sciences Moscow, Leningrad.
46. EC Guidelines to Good Manufacturing Practice Medicinal Products for Human and Veterinary Use Revision to Annex 1. Manufacture of Sterile Medicinal Products. Brussels European Commission (2008) 25 November. Available at

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 4 > >>