Do gut microbes migrate? That what one microbiologist asked his colleagues at the International Human Microbiome Congress in Paris in March, says Veronique Greenwood at the 80beats blog. The University of Toronto's James Scott made a presentation on the gut microbiomes of babies, and said that he found the same microbes in the babies' poop as in the dust in their homes. "It's not clear whether this means that bacteria in the dust are colonizing the babies or vice versa — or both — but it's still something of a surprise," Greenwood says. "Gut microbes don't seem like the sort to thrive outside the body, as they tend to require an oxygen-free environment."
The implication of this finding, she adds, is that other people in the home could pick up microbes from each other. This could be tested by sequencing the gut microbiomes of people living in the same house and comparing them to strangers' microbiomes. "There's also room to speculate that as we learn more about the microbiome's relationship to disease, the swapping of microbes within a household could reveal an infectious component to illnesses that we don't currently think of that way," Greenwood says. "It's just a speculation now, but an interesting one."