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Masterpiece Microbiome

A microbial analysis of sketches drawn by Leonardo DaVinci turned up not only skin-related bacteria, but also fungi, including one known for destroying paper, Wired reports.

Researchers from Italy and Austria analyzed samples carefully collected using micro-aspiration from seven DaVinci sketches, five that are currently at a museum in Turin, Italy, and two from a museum in Rome. As they report in Frontiers in Microbiology, Katja Sterflinger from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) and her colleagues used nanopore sequencing and whole genome amplification to determine that the sketches' microbiomes included bacteria from genera like Moraxella, Acinetobacter, and Pseudomonas as well as Salmonella and Escherichia, and fungi like Trichoderma, Aspergillus, and Candida

Wired notes that the researchers are beginning to build a database of the microorganisms present as a means of helping curators preserve their collections. In this analysis, for instance, they turned up traces of Alternaria, which is known as a "paper spoiler."

"Therefore," first author Guadalupe Piñar from BOKU tells Wired, "the most important message is to identify the possible microbial risk in order to adapt the environmental conditions of storage in such a way that they cannot allow the germination or the proliferation of microorganisms."