A fascinating study was published today in the journal Science that discusses the results of the home microbiome project. The study tracked 7 families over the course of 6 weeks and sampled the microbiome of their homes, hotel rooms, and everywhere else they resided (3 of the families moved homes in the 6 week period). They then linked these microbiomes with the hand, nose and feet microbiomes of the people who lived in each space. The results showed that wherever we go, we take our microbiomes with us. Basically, when moving to a new home, within days the microbiome of that family is established in the new abode (very rapid!), and was stable thereafter. These bacteria are not random; they come directly from our hands, feet, and other areas of contact between our bodies and our environment. Furthermore, there is variation between the microbiomes of each family and their home, meaning that a home microbiome could act as an identifying characteristic (fingerprint) as to who lives there.
Some other notes from the study, the floor microbiomes of our homes vary the most. If you share a home you have similar hand microbiomes as those you share with. Couples share more of a microbiome than individuals who are merely living together, but cohabitating does increase similarity in microbiome.
This work, along with many other studies, is happening because of the microbiome of the built environment project (MoBE) created and funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. As the United States and world continue the trend towards urbanization it is vital to learn about the microbiome of the environment we create and interact with, and how this can affect our health. So far the major findings from the MoBE project have demonstrated that the microbiome where we live looks an awful lot like our microbiome!
Editors note: I wonder if this home microbiome contributes to the fact that homes smell differently depending on who lives there?