Screenshot 2016-07-29 20.29.06

Great summary of the state of studies of “Microbiomes of Indoor Environments” studies

Screenshot 2016-07-29 20.29.06

There is a really nice new paper out in mSystems (full disclosure – I am on the Board of Editors of the journal).  The paper is from Brent Stephens and sums up a recent presentation of his.  See  What Have We Learned about the Microbiomes of Indoor Environments?


The advent and application of high-throughput molecular techniques for analyzing microbial communities in the indoor environment have led to illuminating findings and are beginning to change the way we think about human health in relation to the built environment. Here I review recent studies on the microbiology of the built environment, organize their findings into 12 major thematic categories, and comment on how these studies have or have not advanced knowledge in each area beyond what we already knew from over 100 years of applying culture-based methods to building samples. I propose that while we have added tremendous complexity to the rich existing knowledge base, the practical implications of this added complexity remain somewhat elusive. It remains to be seen how this new knowledge base will change how we design, build, and operate buildings. Much more research is needed to better understand the complexity with which indoor microbiomes may affect human health in both positive and negative ways.

The article divides up what we have learned from recent work into 12 sections:

  1. Culture-independent methods reveal vastly greater microbial diversity compared to culture-based methods
  2. Indoor spaces often harbor unique microbial communities
  3. Indoor fungal communities are largely driven by outdoor fungal communities in nondamp buildings.
  4. Indoor fungal communities in damp buildings are often distinct from those in nondamp buildings.
  5. Indoor bacterial communities often originate from indoor sources.
  6. Source-tracking techniques demonstrate that humans and pets often dominate bacterial communities on indoor surfaces
  7. Occupants and surfaces interact in both directions.
  8. Humans are also major sources of bacteria to indoor air
  9. Controlled studies can elucidate the mechanisms of human microbial emissions
  10. Building design and operation can influence indoor microbial communities.
  11. Building environmental conditions often have a small influence on indoor microbial communities
  12. Exposures to the “right” number of the “right” kinds of microbes may be beneficial for human health.

His presentation is available via Figshare. See below.

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Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. My lab is in the UC Davis Genome Center and I hold appointments in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis (see my lab site here which has more information on lab activities).  In addition to research, I am heavily involved in the Open Access publishing and Open Science movements.