Microbial Communities: Built Environment Technical Summary

Technical Summary  

The microbiome of the built environment has implications for human health. Understanding what influences the presence, spread and colonization of microbes in the built environment is necessary for preventing disease stemming from the microbial population in homes, workplaces, and hospitals. Furthermore, the risk of hospital-acquired infections is a growing concern as effective treatments for antibiotic-resistant bacteria increases. In order to identify the risk and spread of infection in a hospital preliminary research about the hospital microbiome is required. Lax et al. conducted a longitudinal study in a newly- opened hospital. They sampled the hospital surfaces, patients and staff. Abiotic factors, such as light, temperature and humidity, were also tracked for potential influence on bacterial transmission.  Microbial communities from pre-opening and post- opening were highly distinct suggesting that human presence was highly influential of the built environment microbiome. When a patient was admitted, their skin microbiome was transferred to the surfaces in their room. Metagenomic characterization showed that antimicrobial resistance genes were more likely to be found on surfaces than skin. In this study, there were no correlations found between the abiotic factors measured and the transmission of microbes. Researchers correlated chemotherapy treatment in patients with a lower alpha diversity in the patient’s nose, hand, and bedrail. The conclusions from this study showed that patient skin is clearly a vector for the hospital microbiome.


S. Lax, et al., Bacterial colonization and succession in a newly opened hospital. Sci. Transl. Med. 9, eaah6500, (2017), https://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aah6500.

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