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Home Sweet Microbiome

Not only do people bring their stuff, packed away in boxes, when they move, they also bring along their microbes. A study appearing in Science last week monitored the bacterial communities living on the skin and in the homes of seven families. Three of those families moved during the course of the six-week study, taking their bacteria along with them.

"To put it another way — we inoculate the house, rather than the house inoculating us," Andrew Holmes, a microbial ecologist at the University of Sydney, who was not involved in the study, tells The Conversation.

The researchers, led by Jack Gilbert at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, found that the microbial communities varied among the homes in the study, and that people were the primary vector for seeding the homes with bacteria. For instance, they note that a draft genome of a suspected bacterial pathogen found on a kitchen counter could be traced to the hands of the residents.

Additionally, the researchers found that after the families moved, their new home was rapidly colonized and its microbial community quickly resembled that of their previous home.

"This research shows that the microbiota of different home spaces are basically our normal microbiota with whom we live peacefully, even productively, most of the time," adds Cheryl Power from the University of Melbourne at The Conversation.