Each City Has Its Own Distinctive Microbes, Says Study

Posted: Apr 19 2016, 9:51pm CDT | by , Updated: Apr 20 2016, 10:55pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Each City has its own Distinctive Microbes, Says Study
A researcher is sampling office surface materials. Credit: Greg Caporaso

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Researchers found that human skin contributes heavily to the composition of microbial communities in built environments.

You may be aware of the fact that you are sharing your homes and offices with thousands of bacteria, but new research suggests that bacteria everywhere are not the same and vary from one city to another. In other words, every city has its own distinct microbial communities.

Researchers were actually sampling germs from nine offices in three North American cities when they came across an interesting find. Researchers noticed that microbes found in each city appeared different from the other. That’s even though the offices were different from one another but the microbial communities found in offices within a city were surprisingly same.

Researchers suggest that bacteria are influenced by human skin and number of people found in a place. That is why; office floors have more microbes than other surfaces. The reason is likely the soil and other materials lying in worker’s shoes that leaves behind some microbes on the surface.

"We suspect that in the absence of extreme conditions like flooding, microbes may be passively accumulating on surfaces in the built environment rather than undergoing an active process,” said lead researcher Gregory Caporaso from Northern California University.

“As we continue to expand our understanding of the microbiology of the built environment, possibly routine monitoring of microbial communities to track changes that may impact human health, our results will help inform future research efforts.”

To understand how microbial communities establish in build environments, researchers looked at three offices in each of three North American cities over a year. The cities were Flagstaff, San Diego and Toronto.

Researchers installed sampling plates on floor, ceiling and wall as well as sensors to monitor the humidity, temperature and other parameters of the environment. They, they used laboratory techniques called 6S rRNA gene sequencing and ITS-1 to identify bacterial and fungal communities found in the samples. Researchers found that cities are made up of their signature microbial comminutes regardless of the different type of office they are having.

“This was especially interesting because even within each city, the offices we studied differed from each other in terms of size, usage patterns and ventilation systems, suggesting that geography is more important than any of these features in driving the bacterial community composition of offices within the ranges that we studied.” Caporaso said.

To determine the source of microbes seen in office, researchers collected samples of human skin from the workers in the office and found that humans are probably the largest source of the office bacterial community with at least 25-30 percent of microbes in offices came from human skin.

The team is next aiming to study how flooding events change microbial communities in the built environment over time.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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