With roommates, its all about chemistry, molecularly speaking: A survey of life indoors reveals that resident humans and microbes adapt to each other

With roommates, its all about chemistry, molecularly speaking: A survey of life indoors reveals that resident humans and microbes adapt to each other

27/06/2022

Within and upon every human being reside countless microorganisms — the microbiota that help shape and direct the lives of their hosts. A similar phenomenon occurs between people, microbes and the homes they share.

Writing in the June 24, 2022 issue of Science Advances, scientists at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and elsewhere report on the molecular impact of life indoors, describing how the presence of humans interacts with their microbial roommates, changing the home’s biology and chemistry.

The findings, suggest the authors, should influence future building designs.

Modern Americans spend approximately 70 percent of their time inside, reshaping the indoor microbiome with inputs from their bodies. Limited research has investigated the interaction between humans and indoor exposures to specific pollutants, toxins and particles, but the new study more ambitiously documents how people influence the entire molecular and chemical composition of a home through routine activities.

An experimental test home was erected in Austin, Texas during the summer of 2018. The house was designed for ordinary use and included bathrooms, a kitchen, gathering and work areas. Overnight stays were prohibited, but 45 study participants, plus visitors, spent time in the house, occupying it for approximately six hours per day for 26 days, during which they performed scripted activities, such as cooking, cleaning and socializing.

Researchers sampled the distribution of detectable molecules and microbes throughout the occupied areas of the house at the beginning of the experiment, dubbed T1, and again 28 days later, dubbed T2, largely by swabbing surfaces and conducting different genomic, metabolic and chemical analyses.

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