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House Dust Detectives

September 1, 2015

The microbes in your household dust can reveal information about your home’s location, who lives there, and even your pets.



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Citizen scientists collected household dust samples from the inner door frames of their homes. (© Your Wild Life!)

House dust detectives. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The microbes in your household dust can reveal where you live, what pets you have, and even whether more men or women live there, according to a study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. North Carolina State University ecologist Holly Menninger and her colleagues enlisted citizen scientists to collect dust samples from their own homes and send them off for genetic analysis.

HOLLY MENNINGER (North Carolina State University):

So in some ways, our study was really like old school kind of natural history when explorers went to an unknown habitat trying to catalog what organisms lived there.


She says a home’s fungal composition narrowed down its geographic location, while its bacteria revealed the presence of dogs or cats, as well as the ratio of men to women. The next step is to investigate possible connections between human health and the types of microbes found in household dust. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Learn more about the Wild Life of Our Homes Project