Extra Credit Simon Lax Seminar

The seminar’s major points pertained to how our built environment resembles its occupants and why this is important to study. Why should we care about this? One reason is that our microbiome and our surrounding microbiome play a big role in our health. The skin microbiome was the focus of Simon Lax’s research and he has found enormous diversity between people’s skin microbiome just on a day-to day basis. People’s built environment really does resemble what is on their skin. For instance, people’s feet and floor maintained relatively similar communities, but the bacterial communities found on people’s hands and therefore phones changed. With something changing so frequently (keeping in mind we shed millions of bacteria off of our skin onto a variety of surfaces that we touch), how does this affect health or help with forensics? These are questions he addresses.

I think overall it was a really fascinating seminar and provokes people to consider how interacting with the built environment impacts microbial diversity, human health, and how we approach forensics. It makes sense that the environments we interact with the most resemble much of the bacteria found on our skin, especially our phones, which change in their bacterial communities as our hands do.

I do wish he had been able to discuss the specific (or more specific) kind of bacteria found in the hospital setting though. As he mentioned (and as we have discussed in class), using 16S rRNA sequencing does not yield useful results in terms of identifying specific strains of bacteria or determining pathogenicity, which I feel in a hospital setting is important to determine. I did also wonder if antibiotic resistance genes increased over time in the hospital environment they studied, but he did address that this would take more time and research, seeing as the hospital they are studying has not been open for very long. I am also wondering if there is one factor related to the skin microbiome that contributes to an increase in antibiotic resistance more so than anything else in hospitals. Is it the staff skin microbiome, which has higher levels of microbial diversity, since they are interacting not only with the patients, but also with their environments? What are other ways the skin microbiome contributes to increased antibiotic resistance?