Six feet under microbiota: microbiologic contamination and toxicity profile in three urban cemeteries from Lisbon, Portugal

Carla Viegas, Renata Cervantes, Marta Dias, Bianca Gomes, Pedro Pena, Elisabete Carolino, Magdalena Twaruzek, Robert Kosicki, Ewelina Soszczyliska, Susana Viegas, Liliana Aranha Caetano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Cemeteries are potential environmental reservoirs of pathogenic microorganisms from organic matter decomposition. This study aimed to characterize the microbial contamination in three cemeteries, and more specifically in grave diggers’ facilities. One active sampling method (impingement method) and several passive sampling methods (swabs, settled dust, settled dust filters and electrostatic dust cloths—EDC) were employed. The molecular detection of Aspergillus sections and SARS-CoV-2, as well as mycotoxin analysis, screening of azole resistance, and cytotoxicity measurement were also conducted. Total bacteria contamination was 80 CFU.m−2 in settled dust samples, reached 849 CFU.m−2 in EDC and 20,000 CFU.m−2 in swabs, and ranged from 5000 to 10,000 CFU.m−2 in filters. Gram-negative bacteria (VRBA) were only observed in in settled dust samples (2.00x105 CFU.m−2). Regarding Aspergillus sp., the highest counts were obtained in DG18 (18.38%) and it was not observed in azole-supplemented SDA media. SARS-CoV-2 and the targeted Aspergillus sections were not detected. Mycophenolic acid was detected in one settled dust sample. Cytotoxic effects were observed for 94.4% filters and 5.6% EDC in A549 lung epithelial cells, and for 50.0% filters and 5.6% EDC in HepG2 cells. Future studies are needed in this occupational setting to implement more focused risk management measures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number348
JournalToxins
Volume14
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Keywords

  • cemeteries
  • occupational health
  • Aspergillus
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • azole resistance
  • mycotoxins
  • cytotoxicity

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