Global Ramifications of Dust and Sandstorm Microbiota

Hayedeh Behzad, Katsuhiko Mineta, Takashi Gojobori*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Dust and sandstormevents inject substantial quantities of foreign microorganisms into global ecosystems,with the ability to impact distant environments. Themajority of thesemicroorganisms originate from deserts and drylandswhere the soil is laden with highly stress-resistantmicrobes capable of thriving under extremeenvironmental conditions, and a substantial portion of themsurvive long journeys through the atmosphere. This large-scale transmission of highly resilient alienmicrobial contaminants raises concernswith regards to the invasion of sensitive and/or pristine sink environments, and to human health-concerns exacerbated by increases in the rate of desertification. Further increases in the transport of dust-Associated microbiota could extend the spread of foreign microbes to newecosystems, increase their load in present sink environments, disrupt ecosystembalance, and potentially introduce new pathogens. Our present understanding of these microorganisms, their phylogenic affiliations and functional significance, is insufficient to determine their impact. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of available data regarding dust and sandstormmicrobiota and their potential ramifications on human and ecosystemhealth.We conclude by discussing current gaps in dust and sandstormmicrobiota research, and the need for collaborative studies involving high-resolution meta-omic approaches in conjunctionwith extensive ecological time-series studies to advance the field towards an improved and sufficient understanding of these invisible atmospheric travelers and their global ramifications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1970-1987
Number of pages18
JournalGenome biology and evolution
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Aug 1
Externally publishedYes


  • dust and sandstorms microbiota
  • global spread
  • human and ecosystem health
  • metagenomics and multiomics
  • monitoring
  • stress resistant and pathogenic microorganisms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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