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Community structure of environmental microorganisms associated with COVID-19 affected patients

Weihua Zhang, Guoxin Mo, Jie Yang, Xingshuo Hu, Hujie Huang, Jing Zhu, Pei Zhang, , Lixin Xie
Aerobiologia ; doi:10.1007/s10453-021-09708-5

Abstract: To clarify the characteristics and distribution of hospital environmental microbiome associated with confirmed COVID-19 patients. Environmental samples with varying degrees of contamination which were associated with confirmed COVID-19 patients were collected, including 13 aerosol samples collected near eight patients in different wards, five swabs from one patient’s skin and his personal belongings, and two swabs from the surface of positive pressure respiratory protective hood and the face shield from a physician who had close contact with one patient. Metagenomic next-generation sequencing (mNGS) was used to analyze the composition of the microbiome. One of the aerosol samples (near patient 4) was detected positive for COVID-19, and others were all negative. The environmental samples collected in different wards possessed protean compositions and community structures, the dominant genera including Pseudomonas, Corynebacterium, Neisseria, Staphylococcus, Acinetobacter, and Cutibacterium. Top 10 of genera accounted for more than 76.72%. Genera abundance and proportion of human microbes and pathogens radiated outward from the patient, while the percentage of environmental microbes increased. The abundance of the pathogenic microorganism of medical supplies is significantly higher than other surface samples. The microbial compositions of the aerosol collected samples nearby the patients were mostly similar to those from the surfaces of the patient's skin and personal belongings, but the abundance varied greatly. The positive rate of COVID-19 RNA detected from aerosol around patients in general wards was quite low. The ward environment was predominantly inhabited by species closely related to admitted patients. The spread of hospital microorganisms via aerosol was influenced by the patients’ activity.
Keywords: next generation sequencing / microorganisms / COVID / structures / Community structure / Environmental samples / personal belongings / different wards

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