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When Jammers and Blockers Collide

Roller derby players block and crash into each other on the track, trying to score points against the other team, and, in doing so, they also affect each other's skin microbiome, researchers from the University of Oregon say.

The researchers, as they report in PeerJ this week, swabbed the upper arms of roller derby players from three teams before and after play. Samples were also obtained from the facility hosting the tournament. The 16S rRNA genes from the samples were then extracted, amplified, and sequenced. While the bacterial taxa found in the samples were consistent with known skin microbiome communities, there were differences noted among the groups.

Each team, the researchers report, had significantly different microbiomes prior to each bout, but after play those differences lessened. Before the Emerald City Roller Girls played Silicon Valley Roller Girls, they shared about 28.2 percent of their skin microbiome OTUs, while, after they played, they shared 32.7 percent of their OTUs. Similarly, the Emerald City Roller Girls and the DC Roller Girls shared 27.3 percent of their OTUs before playing each other and 29.9 percent afterward.

"This study highlights that our interactions with people around us do appear to change our microbiome," Oregon's James Meadow, the first author on the study, tells ScienceNow. "When you ride to work on the subway and bump arms with someone, is that small contact enough to share something?"

On another note, Daily Scan's (randomly generated) roller derby name is Devil Assassin.

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