AIRwatch overview and history

Bioaerosols are major contributors to hay fever and asthma and mainly consist of large reproductive structures: pollen grains and fungal spores. Their atmospheric concentrations (counts) are dependent upon the abundance of seasonal vegetation and the dispersal effects of weather patterns. Pollen is also implicated as a causal agent in large-scale epidemics of thunderstorm-associated asthma. The recent end of Melbourne’s long drought has coincided with numerous thunderstorm events as well as a return to peaks in severe asthma and hay fever outbreaks. Associate Professor Cenk Suphioglu and Dr Philip Taylor are experienced environmental allergists and have regularly collected pollen and spores in a spore trap, microscopically identified them, and used the results for research, and to inform the public of daily allergy risk levels.

In response to the epidemic thunderstorm asthma of 21 November 2016, the Victorian Government through its agencies DHHS and BoM, have established 5 new pollen counting facilities. These are located in Hamilton, Creswick, Bendigo, Dookie and Churchill, and are in addition to the existing Parkville facility housed at the University of Melbourne, significantly improving the Victorian pollen trap network.

Since there is currently no measure of atmospheric pollen and spore concentrations in regional Victoria (e.g. Geelong) and eastern Melbourne (e.g. Burwood), we have established Deakin AIRwatch, incorporating pollen and spore counting stations at both the Waurn Ponds and Burwood campuses of Deakin University. This is timely due to ever-increasing allergy and asthma epidemics. Deakin AIRwatch network will not only directly benefit the public with pollen and spore counting service to assist in their allergen avoidance programs but also contribute to significant research and clinical studies, which is lacking for the greater Geelong area.

Key publications

  1. Suphioglu, C., Singh, M.B., Taylor,  P.E., Bellomo, R., Holmes, P., Puy, R. and Knox, R.B. (1992). Mechanism of  grass pollen-induced asthma. The Lancet 339: 569-572.
  2. Bellomo, R., Gigliotti, P., Treloar,  A., Holmes, P., Suphioglu, C., Singh, M.B. and Knox, R.B. (1992). Two  consecutive thunderstorm associated epidemics of asthma in the city of  Melbourne: The possible role of rye-grass pollen. Medical Journal of Australia 156: 834-837.
  3. Knox, R.B. and Suphioglu, C. (1996). Environmental and molecular biology of pollen  allergens. Trends in Plant Science 1:156-164.
  4. Schäppi, G., Suphioglu, C., Taylor  P.E. and Knox, R.B. (1997). Concentrations of the major birch tree allergen Bet v 1 in pollen and  respirable fine particles in the atmosphere. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 100:656-662.
  5. Knox, R.B., Suphioglu, C., Taylor, P.,  Desai, R., Watson, H.C., Peng, J.L. and Bursill, L.A. (1997). Major grass pollen allergen Lol p 1 binds to  diesel exhaust particles (DECP): implications for asthma and air pollution. Clinical and Experimental Allergy 27:246-251.
  6. Suphioglu, C. (1998). Thunderstorm asthma due to grass  pollen. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology 116:253-260.
  7. Schäppi, G., Taylor, P.E., Kenrick,  J., Staff, I.A. and Suphioglu, C. (1998). Effect of meteorological conditions on the severity of hayfever in Melbourne (Australia). Aerobiologia 14:29-37.
  8. Schäppi, G., Taylor, P.E., Staff, I.A.  and Suphioglu, C. (1999). Concentrations  of the major grass group 5 allergens in pollen and airborne particles:  implications for atmospheric allergen monitoring. Clinical  and Experimental Allergy 29:633-641.
  9. Schäppi, G., Taylor, P.E., Staff,  I.A., Rolland, J.M. and Suphioglu, C. (1999). Immunologic significance of  respirable atmospheric starch granules loaded with major birch allergen Bet v  1. Allergy 54:478-483.
  10. Suphioglu, C. (2000). What are the  important allergens in grass pollen that are linked to human allergic disease? Clinical and Experimental Allergy 30:1335-41.
  11. Taylor, P.E., Jacobson, K.W., House, J.M.  and Glovesky, M.M. (2007). Links between pollen, atopy and the asthma epidemic. International Archives of Allergy and  Immunology 144:162-170.
  12. Erbas, B., Akram,  M., Dharmage, S.C., Tham, R., Dennekamp, M., Newbigin, E., Taylor, P.E., Tang,  M.L.K. and Abramson, M.J. (2012). The role of seasonal grass pollen on  childhood asthma emergency department presentations. Clinical and Experimental Allergy 42:799-805.
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