Microbes in the News: Post #3

Article and link: “Microorganisms Make a House a Home?” — https://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/43840/title/Microorganisms-Make-a-House-a-Home-/


Summary: This is a brief article which overviews a study in which dust from homes were analyzed for bacterial and fungal species. The results indicate that the presence of certain fungal and bacterial species can indicate the geographical location you live and even the house’s inhabitants, from pets to people.


Connections: Using the presence of certain bacteria to ascertain information is similar to the idea of the human microbiome, as well as using the presence of certain fungi to determine geographical location.


Critical Analysis: The study found that, using the fungal data, one could predict the exact geographical location in which the home was located. Furthermore, they could predict using bacterial data whether or not there is a dog in the household — with 92% accuracy. The scientists could even predict if the house’s inhabitants were predominantly male or female, based on the presence of bacteria typically found in fecal matter (males) or the vaginal canal (females). The article itself was very brief and written for non-scientists, but it didn’t seem to have any inaccuracies. It was very interesting and insightful.


Question: What else could microbes be indicative of in everyday life?

3 Comments for “Microbes in the News: Post #3”



This was a very interesting article! I had not given much thought to the fact that you could likely tell quite a bit from the microbial inhabitants of homes. I found several articles which mention changes that occur in the human microbiome with age as well as in the presence of disease.

In light of this information, I would anticipate that the different types of microbes found within a home could indicate the relative ages of the residents, whether any of the residents had a disease (at least the type where they might shed or expel the responsible microbe through coughing and sneezing), and possibly also which residents were home more often than others (for example, if there is a married couple and the woman works from home while the husband leaves for work each day, I would assume there would be a higher ratio of those bacteria associated with females). One could learn many interesting things simply by examining the microbial population of a home!

Morgen Southwood


Your question made me not only think about how ones personalized micro biome can be highly informative, but why that information would be useful. I did a bit of googling about using microbes for crime solving: https://horizon-magazine.eu/article/crime-fighting-microbes-how-bacteria-are-helping-figure-out-whodunnit_en.html Apparently microbes can be used to disprove alibis. For example: “I couldn’t have dunnit, I was at home alone all night and I’ve never been to the murder park…” Detective Charlie (with a background in microbiology) says “then explain how we found dirt in your shoes with the exact same microbial community structure as the crime scene!”
The microbial traces we leave behind and we pick up as we navigate our lives can be used to say, where we go, what we do, how we live etc. It really is an exciting field.

P.S. This is my third comment, but I didn’t submit before the deadline.



Definitely an interesting topic. I think it is interesting that they would use the dust microbes to determine where a house is, and it makes me wonder if this could be used as a forensic tool. My thoughts are that they could use this information to then figure out where a body or possible suspects were. I was recently reading a paper that revealed that a lot of the microbes found in soil for decomposing bodies are fairly ubiquitous, so I wonder if they could discover more forensically with the use of both methods.

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