Pollen and its Contribution to Respiratory Outcomes in Subtropical Regions

The University of Queensland

Air quality is a strong predictor of respiratory health. In comparison to traditional sources like industry, transport, open burning, bushfires, and power plants, the contribution of plant pollen to respiratory health is not well studied in the sub-tropical/arid climate. Residents in subtropical regions show higher allergic sensitivity and subfamily-specific immunoreactivity with pollen of Chloridoideae and Panicoideae grasses, compared with temperate grass pollen. Therefore, knowledge of plant species and the amount of pollen in the air column is essential to preparing more accurate predictions of when respiratory disease burden would be high and ultimately helps direct and focus public health efforts to minimise the impact of pollen on respiratory health.

Aerial dispersion of pollen gives an important snapshot of the biodiversity of the surrounding environment. We plan to examine what biologics are in the air column in Delhi and Brisbane as there is currently very little knowledge in these places. New environmental DNA (eDNA) techniques allow samples of plant pollens and fungal spores to be collected and analysed using stored data (DNA barcode library) or other sequencing techniques. This information, when combined with the next generation air quality models, provides a variety of tools to examine the release, dispersion and transformation of bioaerosols and how they affect the environment. Further, we expect to analyse the respiratory morbidity data from the two cities to understand the health risk of exposure to pollen.

We will collect pollen at different times of the year and using eDNA techniques and light microscopy we will ascertain diurnal and seasonal fluctuations in pollen genera and species, and their relationship to human health outcomes.

Project members

A/Prof Nicholas Osborne

Theme Leader, Environmental Health Epidemiology