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Microbial Cities

April 20, 2016

The offices of different cities have distinct microbes inhabiting them.


Joey Gannon CC BY SA 2.0 via flickr cropped

The microbes lurking inside Toronto’s office buildings are distinct from those of other cities. (Joey Gannon CC-BY-SA 2.0, via flickr-cropped)


Cities’ microbial signatures. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

We each have our own unique microbial community living inside of us. But what about the places where we live and work? A new study in the journal mSystems reports that cities have their own distinctive microbial signatures as well. Northern Arizona University bioinformaticist Greg Caporaso and his team collected microbes from office buildings in San Diego, Toronto and Flagstaff for a year.

GREG CAPORASO (Northern Arizona State University):

The individual offices within a city were very similar to one another in their microbial compositions, but across cities, the offices were different from one another. In other words, the offices in Flagstaff looked different than the offices in Toronto.


Caporaso says understanding these differences could help planners design indoor spaces that minimize opportunities for rare, harmful microbes to establish themselves indoors. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.