A team of researchers interested in microscopic life found that the microorganisms thriving in household dust can vary from one person to another depending of whether that person has a pet, whether he or she lives alone, or whether the home owner is a man or woman.
Noah Fierer, lead author of the study and microbiology expert from the University of Colorado at Boulder, explained that our homes are ecosystems for the invisible animals. Even if we live by ourselves we are never alone. There are millions of invisible tenants just under our nose.
Researchers believe that their findings may help doctors better understand how dust microorganisms affect their patients’ health.
Before this study, Fierer’s team was involved in two other projects designed to unlock the mysteries of microbial life found in soil and on plants. During those projects, scientists realized that there’s a microbe-rich ecosystem just in their homes.
So, they wanted to learn how many types of household dust microorganisms are there, and how they are influenced by people’s lives.
During their latest research dubbed Wild Life of Our Homes, the team and a group of volunteers collected dust samples from nearly 1,200 homes across North America. Samples were taken from regions with significant climate variations.
Fierer admitted that the team could not possible collect the samples all by itself without the help from hundreds of volunteers.
After the samples were collected, microbes were scrutinized under electron microscopes. Yet, because some fungi and microbes look alike under the microscope, scientists resorted to DNA sequencing to correctly tell one microbe from another.
The researcher team was amazed by the vast diversity of bacteria found in household dust. They found over 120,000 different types of bacteria and more than 70,000 types of fungi.
Fungi, however, varied a lot depending on climate, temperature, humidity, and location.
“Where you live determines what fungi live with you inside your home,”
But bacteria were affected by human behavior rather than place and climate. Scientists learned that having a dog or cat means that there are more microorganisms to share your personal space with. Dogs usually carry bacteria to our homes through their mouths.
The team also found variations in microbial community depending on the men or women living in a home. Fierer believes that the variations may be linked to different styles of hygiene, and skin biology.
As a follow-up, researchers hope to find how microbes in our households trigger allergies. So far, they found “some evidence” that exposure to a pet from early age can actually shield you from allergies.
Image Source: Pixabay
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