The PRoBE Research Group is leading pioneering research in airborne pathogen transmission in buildings. Aerosolised pathogens (often referred to as Bioaerosols) can pose a significant risk to the spread of infection and disease within buildings. Research activities focus on the characterisation of bioaerosol generation and transmission, coupled closely with the development and application of advanced numerical models for the prediction of bioaerosol transport.
A significant area of research focuses on the transport of bioaerosols within the sanitary plumbing and sewerage system and their cross-transmission into the building. Laboratory tests, using Pseudomonas putida KT2440 as the pathogenic agent within a toilet flush, found that the generated bioaerosols could be spread from one floor of a building to another via the sanitary plumbing and sewerage system. If a defect within the system exists such as, for example, the loss of the water within a U-bend, then the bioaerosols could enter a room on an upper floor and contaminate every surface within that room. Such a cross-transmission route depends on the following confirmed conditions:
- The sanitary plumbing and sewerage system is a reservoir of pathogenic organisms.
- Bioaerosols are generated during appliance flush.
- Airflows within the sanitary plumbing and sewerage system move both in the upward and downward directions and circulate between floors.
- Biaoerosols can be transported on the airflows that exist within the sanitary plumbing and sewerage system.
- A defect, such as an empty U-bend, allows air to move from the system into the building.