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The Microbes You Share

Couples can have a lot in common, and a new study shows that they also have common skin microbes, the New York Times reports.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo investigated the makeup of the skin microbiomes of 10 romantic couples who lived together. As they report in mSystems, the researchers found that co-habitation was significantly associated with microbial community composition. Using just skin microbiome data, random forest modeling could correctly match couples 86 percent of the time, the Waterloo team adds. Still, the Times notes that samples taken from different parts of an individual's skin microbiome were more similar to each other than to anyone else's.

They also found that couples tended to have highly similar microbes on their feet. The Times notes that that could be because couples tend to walk barefoot at home and stand on the same shower floor. At the same time, the researchers found the microbes found on individuals' thighs correlated more with biological sex, as the vaginal microbiome might influence the thigh skin microbiome of women.

"The more we know about factors that influence the human microbiome, including microbes coating our skin, the more we understand about the barriers that protect our bodies from disease, train our immune system and connect to the environments that we inhabit," Waterloos' Josh Neufeld tells the Times in an email.