On and in your body, at this very moment, are living over 100 trillion microbes working together—hopefully—to help protect you from disease. From person to person, these microbes differ, although certain core sets of bacteria groups tend to be common across all people. While many researchers are hard at work advancing our knowledge about the microbes covering our skin and living within us, researchers from the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago have been studying the microbes inside of houses and apartments.
In a recent study published in the journal Science, researchers followed seven families, including eighteen people, three dogs, and one cat, over six weeks. Participants swabbed their hands, feet, and noses daily to collect microbial samples. In addition, samples from household surfaces, such as countertops, floors, light switches, and doorknobs were collected.
They found that the microbial composition of the homes was greatly affected by the communities living in and on the humans. Three of the seven families moved over the course of the study, and it took less than one day for the microbes to be diminished from the old homes. Likewise, when one individual left home for a few days, the microbes followed. This study shows us that not only do our microbes take over our bodies, but they take over our homes while inhabit them.
Among the people studied, the married couples along with their young children were found to share many more microbes with each other than they did with other family members. The hands were found to be the location of most similarity between individuals while noses showed the most individuality. In homes with pets, plant and soil bacteria were found in higher amounts, as would be expected.
The researchers say that studies such as these could serve as a forensic tool. “You could theoretically predict whether a person has lived in this location, and how recently, with very good accuracy, noted Jack Gilbert, PhD, lead researcher.
Could it be that our bacteria take over our living environments as a protective measure over our health? I would certainly not be surprised. I like the idea of having an army of beneficial bacteria surrounding me at all times.