Extra Credit Simon Lax Seminar Response

1.  The talk began with Lax presenting the idea that microorganisms shape our lives through the environment that we live in. Now that we spend much of our lives in fabricated environments (our houses, schools, workplaces) our relationship with microbes has changed. Simon Lax described two projects that set out to describe the interactions between the microbes in our built environments and the microbes on our skin. First, Lax introduced the Home Microbiome Study, undertaken to understand the relationship of microbes found on an individuals skin and the microbes found in their house. There were some interesting conclusions from this project – including the suggestion of a microbial “fingerprint’. The results provided evidence of being able to identify an individual’s environment from their skin (or an environment from an individual). Lax then talked about colonization and persistence of microbial communities in new hospitals. The succinct results showed that there was an entirely different microbial community in the hospital pre-opening and post-opening. Also, the most notable interactions of environment and individuals were between what you would suspect to be highly correlated- for example, a nurse and her phone. The talk finished with a brief look into the clinical results of the hospital study such as the concerns around antibiotics and other factors that influences skin microbiomes.

2.    I enjoyed this lecture and though that the presentation was both informative and captivating. Additionally, the topics Lax is researching are very relevant. I found myself wanting to know more about the results of both studies that Lax described. Specifically, I began to question- as someone in the audience queried- what kind of surfaces are most accommodating to, bacterial growth? For example, will hardwood floor or carpet be more conducive to a diverse micro biome? And how would a different floor material impact the exchange of bacteria from us to our built environments. I was also curious about some of the factors in the hospital study that influenced how similar surfaces in one area would be. Lax said that larger surface similarities are found when the temperature is colder and humidity is higher. I thought those results were interesting and I would like to know more about these factors and why they impact the similarities in the way they do.

When we discussed the history of microbiology in class we talked about the scientific developments that were made as reactions towards the isolation and discovery of microorganisms. A lot of those, such as microscopes or Koch’s postulates, were made to understand and explore what microorganisms are and what they do. The research that Simon Lax is involved in is also reactionary in this way. Humans have transitioned to a lifestyle that is spent primarily inside our built environments and this has influenced our relationship with microorganisms. The quest to understand what that change is and how it will affect humans mirrors the way that history was propelled by the fundamental question about what a microorganism is.