Sunday 20 September 2015

The ecology of microscopic life in household dust

The dust in our homes contains an average of 9,000 different species of microbes, a study suggests. The researchers found that the average household had more than 2,000 different types of fungi. These included well-known moulds such as Aspergillus, Penicillium, Alternaria and Fusarium. The researchers also discovered an average of 7,000 different types of bacteria per household. Some, such as Staphylococcus and Streptococcus, were commonly associated with human skin.

Other findings were more unusual and were shaped by geographical region and whether the household owned any pets.

Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder analysed the dust found in 1,200 households across the United States.

The research paper is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, and it is headed "The ecology of microscopic life in household dust."

The abstract reads:

"We spend the majority of our lives indoors; yet, we currently lack a comprehensive understanding of how the microbial communities found in homes vary across broad geographical regions and what factors are most important in shaping the types of microorganisms found inside homes. Here, we investigated the fungal and bacterial communities found in settled dust collected from inside and outside approximately 1200 homes located across the continental US, homes that represent a broad range of home designs and span many climatic zones. Indoor and outdoor dust samples harboured distinct microbial communities, but these differences were larger for bacteria than for fungi with most indoor fungi originating outside the home. Indoor fungal communities and the distribution of potential allergens varied predictably across climate and geographical regions; where you live determines what fungi live with you inside your home. By contrast, bacterial communities in indoor dust were more strongly influenced by the number and types of occupants living in the homes. In particular, the female : male ratio and whether a house had pets had a significant influence on the types of bacteria found inside our homes highlighting that who you live with determines what bacteria are found inside your home."

Posted by Tim Sandle

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