Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Home sweet microbe: Dust in your house can predict geographic region, gender of occupants

26.08.2015

The humble dust collecting in the average American household harbors a teeming menagerie of bacteria and fungi, and as researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and North Carolina State University have discovered, it may be able to predict not only the geographic region of a given home, but the gender ratio of the occupants and the presence of a pet as well.

The new findings, which were published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, highlight the impressive amount of microbial diversity in the average household and the degree to which these organisms can tell a story about the homes they inhabit.


This image shows household dust under a microscope.

Credit: NIAID

"Every day, we're surrounded by a vast array of organisms in our homes, most of which we can't see," said Noah Fierer, an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at CU-Boulder and a co-author of the study. "We live in a microbial zoo, and this study was an attempt to catalog that diversity."

The study examined roughly 1,200 homes across the continental U.S. Volunteers participating in the Wild Life of Our Homes citizen science project helped researchers collect indoor and outdoor dust samples at each site.

... more about:
»Biology »Dust »NCSU »ecology »fungi »microbe

On average, each home contains more than 5,000 different species of bacteria and around 2,000 species of fungi. Fungal communities tend to be more predictive of a home's location while bacterial communities provide clues about the identity of its residents.

"Geography is the best predictor of fungi in your home," said Fierer, who is also a research fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at CU-Boulder. "The reason is that most fungi blow in from outdoors via soil and leaves," he said, noting that a home in the upper Midwest, for instance, will harbor distinct fungi compared to a home in the Southeast.

When it comes to bacteria, however, where you live may be less important than whom you live with. From the dust samples, researchers could confidently predict which homes had pets such as cats or dogs and, to a slightly lesser extent, the gender ratio of the residents. Homes with only male occupants, for example, will have a different bacterial makeup than those with both male and female occupants.

"One of the key takeaways is that if you want to change what you breathe inside your house, you would either have to move very far away or change the people and the pets you live with," said Albert Barbarán, a graduate researcher in CU-Boulder's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and lead author of the study.

The findings may have future implications for forensic investigations and allergen research.

The study was co-authored by Rob Dunn, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University (NCSU); Brian Reich, Associate Professor in the Department of Statistics at NCSU; Krishna Pacifici, Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Ecology at NCSU; Eric Laber, Assistant Professor in the Department of Statistics at NCSU; Holly Menninger, Director of Public Science for the College of Sciences at NCSU; Shelly Miller, Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at CU-Boulder; James Morton, a former graduate researcher in the Department of Interdisciplinary Qualitative Biology at CU-Boulder; and Jessica Henley and Jonathan Leff, both graduate researchers in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at CU-Boulder.

The National Science Foundation provided funding for the research, with additional support from the A.P. Sloan Microbiology of the Built Environment Program and the Personal Genomes Project.

Noah Fierer | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Biology Dust NCSU ecology fungi microbe

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>