The Home Microbiome

Though the full extent of the microbiome’s effect on human health is yet to be explored, it is increasingly apparent that understanding the microbiome will lead to important advances in a number of distinct health related fields.  It has recently been documented, for example, that the microbiome may have direct impact on issues as diverse as weight gain and brain development.  Understanding what factors influence the makeup of the human microbiome is, therefore, an important goal moving forward—and this was the prime objective in Argonne National Laboratory’s recent Home Microbiome Project.

Nearly everyone spends a large portion of their time in their homes; and with new trends such as cyber commuting the importance of a healthy home environment is only going to increase. What’s more, the home is, for most of us, the environment that we have the most control over. All of these factors contribute to the importance of understanding how and why the home environment influences the human microbiome.

In this study, researchers followed seven families during six weeks.  They monitored the microbial ecosystems living within each participant, as well as the microbes that lived around the home (on surfaces such as countertops, doorknobs, light switches, etc.) The most impactful finding of the study was that the relationship between the human microbiome and the microbial ecosystems existing within the home is reciprocal.  We influence the microbial ecosystem that surrounds us just as much as it influences our internal microbiome.  In fact, when researchers had three families move to new locations, they found that the new homes contained the exact same microbial makeup within just one day!

This means that family members (and even pets, which were also included in the study) have an enormous effect on each other’s microbiomes. Not surprisingly, this effect is especially great between couples, and between parents and young children.

CosmosID is proud to have been a part of the publication and to be on the cutting edge of microbiome research; helping to identify and analyze the microbes that inhabit the places where we live and work in hopes of building a better, healthier tomorrow for all.