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Study Finds People’s Homes Covered with Bacteria even after Cleaning

Update Date: Aug 29, 2014 10:57 AM EDT
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People can spend hours per week cleaning and tidying up their homes. However, according to a new study, no matter how much disinfectant people use, their homes will still be covered in bacteria. The bacteria, at least, mostly belong to the people who live in the house.

"We have so little information about where the microbes come from that shape our microbiome, whether it's for health or disease," said microbiologist Jack Gilbert of the Argonne National Laboratory and University of Chicago according to Philly. "It's the indoor environment. The best place to look at that was the home."

The human microbiome is made up all the different good bacteria that live in and on the body. The microbiome interacts with the bugs from the environment, which in turn, affects health. For this study, the team examined seven households in Illinois, Washington and California that included a total of 15 adults, three children, three dogs and one cat. The researchers instructed the people to collect samples for six weeks. The samples were taken from the hands, feet, noses, paws, doorknobs, light switches and other regions of the body as well as the house.

The researchers tested the microscopic bugs and identified them based on their DNA. They found that people's microbiome greatly influenced the microbial communities living in their house. The researchers added that the microbial communities settle in new places rapidly. It only took about one day for the microbes to spread out when people moved to another place.

"You have to think about the microbiome of your home as part of your home's immune system," said Dr. Lisa Helbling Chadwick, of National Institutes of Health's (NIH) National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, who wasn't involved with Gilbert's project. "Instead of relying on killing bugs to stop the spread of infection, maybe we need to cultivate better bugs."

Gilbert added reported by TIME, "People get very fidgety and itchy about hotel rooms. But realistically, my hotel room right now looks like my microbiome. I've wiped out any of the previous occupants' microflora in here-it's 99.9% me."

The study, "Longitudinal analysis of microbial interaction between humans and the indoor environment," was published in the journal, Science.

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