Moving? Your Germ Universe Will Follow
A new study finds it takes about a day for our bacteria to colonize a new place
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2014 6:07 AM CDT
Dylan Gilbert, 7, of Naperville, Ill., demonstrates how he helped collect samples of bacteria from his foot during the study. His father is microbiologist Jack Gilbert of Argonne National Laboratory.   (AP Photo/Gilbert Family)

(Newser) – It doesn't matter how much we scrub—our bodies are home to trillions of bacteria. And a new study finds that they travel with us: Even when we move to a new location, they colonize those surfaces within about a day, reports WebMD. But the vast majority that comprise what's called our microbiome seem to do helpful things, like keep our immune and digestive systems healthy. And because one family's microbiome is unique from another's, the researchers say that comparing them among the seven families they tracked (including three kids, three dogs, and a cat) was a reliable way to tell them apart, much like fingerprints.

"The speed at which that colonization happens was quite remarkable," the head researcher tells AP. His team found that a place's old germs largely go dormant or die when new people arrive and their own bacteria take over, which "changed my perspective almost on hotel rooms," he says. Within homes, similar bacteria was most often found on people's hands, while variation peaked when found in people's noses. Not surprisingly, indoor-outdoor cats and dogs bring plant and soil bacteria into the environment. One open question: Where do the bugs we bring into our homes come from? (Scientists behind the Human Microbiome Project say we should treat our bodies the way environmentalists treat wildlife preserves.)

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Showing 3 of 8 comments
Ezekiel 25:17
Aug 29, 2014 10:00 AM CDT
In a study done by the Purel company, they gave dozens of moms hundreds of ATP swabs to take on their family vacations last year. They had the moms swab the kids at all junctures of activities and particularily before and after the use of Purel. The final out come of the testing was that Purel eliminated millions of colonies of fecal coliform and most other infective agents over just washing at the park's restroom facilities. It found the place where kids picked up the worst infective bacteria was after going on a major ride with an aggresive restraint system such as a rollercoaster. They found the most infected park at the time of the testing that included visits to all Disney properties, Universal, Seaworld, etc. was Univesal Florida. They responded with a comment that they would look at park cleaning sevices and try to solve that problem.
Toon
Aug 29, 2014 8:04 AM CDT
Where do these germs come from? Well these germs are mostly helpful and one of the best things you can do for preemies is skin to skin contact. Could it be that we get them from our caretakers when we are young? This poses an interesting question, what's happening in the microbiome when families merge?
finkster
Aug 29, 2014 7:40 AM CDT
Bacteria are like fingerprints? Sounds like an episode of Forensic Files.