Meet the microbes

Schoolzone: Meet the Microbes | Microbiology Society

meet the microbes

Cities are home to uncounted millions of microorganisms, many of which are only there because we bring them. But the built environment is a. Meet the Microbes. Germs are all around us. They're in the soil, in the air, and in the water. Germs are even found on us and in us! They live on your hair, skin. Meet the Microbes: Background. Regular price $ Sale. Default Title. Quantity. Add to cart. Info; Reviews. Meet the Microbes: Background.

In fact, they have a thin biofilm into which nutrients — and microbes — can be deposited. Some microbe species seem quite happy in hot water heaters, dishwashers or even the bleach tanks of washing machines "I don't know if you've ever checked out your pipe when the plumber has come over, but it's kind of eye-opening to see how gross your pipes are," she says. They developed a rig of pipes, which they installed at five water utility plants in the US. They found the plants contained potential pathogens like Mycobacterium and Legionella, which can cause Legionnaire's disease — although these particular strains of the bacteria will not necessarily trigger disease.

It was the way each utility processed its water that made the largest difference between the microbiomes. Two of the utilities even drew their water from the same source, but the microbiomes of the liquid they pumped out to homes were distinct — showing that it was their own process for treating the water that really mattered.

What effect could all of this be having on human health? Are there healthier microbiomes to live within?

meet the microbes

Dunn says there is likely a "huge impact" on our wellbeing from the microbes we are exposed to. But he adds, "Do we understand which of these exposures matter? Lynch has shown how the extra microbial diversity of a home with a dog appeared to have a positive impact on health — at least in experiments using mice instead of humans.

Some of the mice ate dust from homes where dogs lived, and were then exposed to allergens. These mice had reduced asthma-associated inflammation in their lungs than mice exposed to dust from dog-free homes.

BBC - Earth - Meet the microbes that have made New York City their home

One of the microbial species that had this effect was Lactobacillus johnsonii — one of many bacteria found in mothers' vaginas just before birth. It is also possible that our modern ways of living hamper microbes that our bodies have evolved to support. Another study by Dunn's team investigated the effect of antiperspirants and deodorants on armpit bacteria.

meet the microbes

The armpits of volunteers were sampled during the course of an eight-day period. For the first day, participants kept to their normal hygiene habits, then spent five days not using odour-busting sprays at all. Finally, participants they began using them again on the last two days of the experiment.

Dunn says there is likely a "huge impact" on our wellbeing from the microbes we are exposed to The results showed that one genus of bacteria, Corynebacterium, had dramatically reduced levels when the aerosols were being used. In one sense this is desirable — for it is Corynebacterium that produce the unpleasant odours in a sweaty armpit. But what you might not know is that our armpits' apocrine glands seem to want them there.

But Dunn notes that knocking it out allows other microbes to thrive in our armpits, which could be disadvantageous for us. Is there any way we could use all this information to improve the microbial diversity of our surroundings? View image of Millions of bacteria live on, and in, our bodies Credit: The microbes we need are sometimes hampered by the structures we have build around us Pruden suggests that one way of displacing harmful bacteria like Legionella in water systems could be to encourage the growth of antagonistic bacteria.

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These bacteria produce chemicals that can inhibit the bloom of potentially pathogenic microbes. One such species is Bacillus subtilis, which can have an antagonistic effect on Legionella. And then there is Jack Gilbert, a trail-blazing microbiologist who is hoping to develop materials for buildings that encourage the presence and persistence of microbes that can stop pathogens taking hold.

In the last few years alone, then, we have unearthed heaps of new knowledge about how rich our urban environment is with microbial life — but also how fragile an ecosystem it is, too.

Jonathan Eisen: Meet your microbes | TED Talk

The microbes we need are sometimes hampered by the structures we have build around us, and it is still not clear exactly how our health may be affected as a result. It seems certain, though, that as this understanding continues to evolve, we will become ever more cognizant of our microbial neighbours. We have long shared our cities with them.

The spreadsheet the lab sent me listed more than 1, different bacteria, identified by their DNA, and the team arranged the names to display the inhabitants of three places representing the three most common household ecosystems: Chloroplasts, the structures that allow plants to draw energy from photosynthesis, were originally free-floating cyanobacteria that took up residence in plant cells, and the cyanobacteria DNA strewn around my apartment are a signature of pollen.

I have a slightly heavier pollen load than most, perhaps because of my proximity to Prospect Park, less than a block away. The other prominent citizens of my door frame, probably having settled there after floating through the air like the pollen, are skin bacteria, including many from the genus Corynebacterium, which includes the diphtheria bacterium.

There are also some from the genus that includes the underarm microbes responsible for body odor. But that was by no means a sure thing. Fecal microbes are everywhere, constantly spreading from our nether regions—perhaps carried on our hands, but also perhaps by themselves, since clothes are not a microbe-tight barrier.

The ones on my pillow may not even be mine: The most intriguing find there was something called Hydrocarboniphaga effusa. When I search for it, I turn up a paper announcing the discovery of this bacterium not too far from where I live, in soil contaminated by a fuel oil leak in New Jersey, where it was happily digesting the spill. What it was eating at my house is not clear. Perhaps it stowed away on a fossil-fuel-based substance, a fertilizer or a pesticide that was contaminating produce I brought in.

Of all the houses the team has so far examined, about 40, I am the only person with H. But outlier homes like mine—with a bacterium no one else seems to have—are not unusual.

Meet the Microbes

As creepily fascinating as it is to discover just which microorganisms are living in our homes, there is also hard, perhaps even lifesaving science that can come from it. Our immune systems are highly evolved bacteria-killing machines, but often, we can forge a mutually beneficial truce with the microbes that invade us.

Biologists hypothesize that the microbes that colonize us might train and toughen the immune system, and in the absence of the right complement of them, autoimmune diseases develop.