While you may be single and without roommates don’t think for a moment that you are alone. A recently published report following a study of dust from the door frames of 1100 U.S. houses show a myriad of fungi and bacteria live with you despite variances based on your gender and whether or not you have pets.
What your dust tells about you and your home
This week saw the publication of a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B by Noah Fierer, a microbial ecologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder and his colleagues in which they determined that the fungi in your house is geographic while the bacteria in your house is based on with whom you share your space.
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“Our homes are ecosystems that we spend a lot of time in, and so we approached this with a very general question,” said Fierer, “What type of microbes and fungi do we see in our homes?”
But certainly you knew you weren’t alone and there is no reason to freak out about it.
“I don’t want any readers to be paranoid about this,” continued Fierer. “Most of the organisms are completely innocuous, and some may be beneficial.”
A sampling of 1100 homes
Due to funding issues the researchers were forced to use “citizen scientists” in order to obtain the necessary samples. Through the website Your Wild Life volunteers were able to sign up to help the researchers. They were then sent a sterile cotton-tipped swab slightly longer than a Q-tip and asked to swab above the door trim of both an exterior and interior door.
“The reason we had them sample there is because people don’t touch it, and it is not typically cleaned very often,” Fierer said.
While the study was conducted to measure bacteria and fungi, the researchers had to sort through the unholy mix of insect parts, dead skin, pollen as well as non-living components such as soil particles, carpet fibers, dry wall remnants among other “ingredients” in dust.
In addition to asking for the swab to be returned, the participants in the study were all asked a number of questions about their homes.
“We asked all sorts of questions, but most of them were not very predictive,” Fierer said.
“Ideally, we would have a team of scientists all trained to sample in the exact same way, but we would never have had the funding to do that,” Fierer added while thanking those involved. “We could never have done this research without our army of volunteers.”
What they found in the dust
At its simplest, the study explains that fungi, as most arrives inside the house from the outside, goes a long ways to speaking of where the house is located. Bacterial compositions, however, vary based on who lives in the home.
“There was a lot of variability, but the two main things we noticed were whether the person lived with a dog or a cat,” Fierer said.
Additionally, men and women are responsible for different bacteria which allowed the researchers to determine the ratio of men and women in the home by simply looking at the dust’s composition.
“This is baseline data,” Dr. Fierer said. “We’re starting to get a handle on what sorts of microbes we see in homes, and the next step is looking at how this affects human health.”