Quantitative microbial risk assessment of outdoor aerosolized pathogens in cities with poor sanitation

Lucas Rocha-Melogno, Katherine C. Crank, Olivia Ginn, Michael H. Bergin, Joe Brown, Gregory C. Gray, Kerry A. Hamilton, Kyle Bibby, Marc A. Deshusses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The aeromicrobiological transmission pathway of enteric pathogens in places with unsafe sanitation services is poorly understood. In an attempt to partly fill this knowledge gap, we assessed the potential public health impact of bioaerosols near open waste canals (OWCs) using Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA). We used data acquired in La Paz, Bolivia to characterize the risk of disease that aerosolized enteric pathogens may pose through food, fomites and inhalation (all followed by ingestion). Three reference pathogens were selected to conduct the assessment: enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), Shigella flexneri, and Campylobacter jejuni. Inhalation followed by ingestion had the highest median infection risk per event i.e. 3 × 10−5 (3 infections for every 100,000 exposures), compared to contaminated food e.g. 5 × 10−6 and fomites e.g. 2 × 10−7, all for C. jejuni infections. Our sensitivity analysis showed that bacterial fluxes from the air were the most influential factor on risk. Our results suggest that fecal bacterial aerosols from OWCs present non-negligible risks of infection in La Paz, with median annual infection risks by C. jejuni being 18 (food), and 100 (inhalation) times greater than the EPA's standard for drinking water (1 × 10−4). We included two of the QMRA models presented here in a novel web application we developed for user-specified application in different contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number154233
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jun 25 2022


  • Bacteria
  • Bioaerosols
  • SDG 6
  • Stochastic risk assessment
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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