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Personal Microbe Cloud

September 23, 2015

Each of us produces a cloud of bacteria as unique as a fingerprint.



Our bacterial companions. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The character “Pigpen” from the Peanuts comic strip was invariably surrounded by his personal cloud of dust. In the journal PeerJ, University of Oregon researcher James Meadow reports that while it’s not visible, all of us emit our own cloud of bacteria.

JAMES MEADOW (Biology and the Built Environment Center, University of Oregon):

We’re just kind of these filthy monkey creatures and we spill our bacteria all over the place even if we think we’re really clean.


Meadow and his colleagues had healthy volunteers sit inside booths that collected airborne bacteria, and then counted and identified the microbes from each person.


And when we combine those combinations of microbes, you can start to tell amongst people.


The work is preliminary, but could eventually help researchers understand the spread of both helpful and harmful bacteria, or track people’s movements in criminal investigations. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.