Extra Credit – Simon Lax Lecture

The seminar was an overview of the various research projects done by Simon Lax and colleagues in the field of metagenomics. His first study consisted of sampling several households and the people living in them for an extended period of time to analyze how the microbiome varied between location on the body, individuals, and households. He looked into the correlation between the microbes on the surfaces of the house and the people’s and animals’ coming into contact with them. Another study he mentioned followed him and one of his fellows, with samples collected from their shoes, cell phones and various surfaces they touched. The last project was centered around a hospital, starting before it opened and following the microbial diversity in two of its floor after patients and nurses started occupying ┬áthem.

It seems to me like the applications of microbial fingerprinting are not very useful in the forensic and medical field; the microbial community on surfaces disappears just a few days after an individual stops touching them, and in crowded places there’s just too many microbes to be able to isolate a specific track.

The connections to our class include the use of bioinformatics and DNA sequencing, and the idea of microbiome, which we have discussed before, both in relation to the lab project and to human health, especially the gut microbiome.

I thought it was very interesting to see that use of antibiotics does not affect the skin’s microbes, but I would like to know if it affects the gut’s. Also, as one of the people present at the lecture mentioned, how does genetic relatedness impact the microbiome? I wish we had spent more time talking about people moving in together. How do their microbes change, and how quickly? Is there selection for the most successful microbes between individuals?