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Microbiology of the Built Environment

Guest edited by Jack A Gilbert and Brent Stephens

This collection of research and reviews from Microbiome explores the microbiology of Built Environments (BE), the buildings, cities, and towns where we live and work. Over the last 80 years they have become our most intimate ecosystem. Yet our ignorance of this ecosystem is profound, despite its significant impact on humanity. The bacteria, fungi, and viruses that colonize these environments help shape the human microbiome, and can fundamentally alter the trajectory of our health. Designing our buildings and city spaces with the microbiome in mind may help to improve energy efficiency, health, sustainability, and consequently, worker performance and economic productivity. By mapping the microbiome of our built environments we may track biothreats and diseases, develop sophisticated early warning systems, and understand how a changing climate and increasing population density will shape this world.

The indoor microbiome may impact the immunological, physiological and neurological development of children. Infants can spend 98% of their first year of life indoors, with a highly depauperate exposure to a complex microbiome that would normally train a healthy immune system and stimulate healthy physiology and neurology. The indoor ecosystem, and the urban environment in particular, are hotspots for reduced microbial diversity, with this reduction having untold consequences for our health and wellbeing. 

This collection of articles has not been sponsored and articles have undergone the journal’s standard peer-review process. The Guest Editors declare no competing interests.

View all collections published in Microbiome.

  1. Research

    Microbial succession in an inflated lunar/Mars analog habitat during a 30-day human occupation

    For potential future human missions to the Moon or Mars and sustained presence in the International Space Station, a safe enclosed habitat environment for astronauts is required. Potential microbial contaminat...

    Teresa Mayer, Adriana Blachowicz, Alexander J. Probst, Parag Vaishampayan, Aleksandra Checinska, Tiffany Swarmer, Pablo de Leon and Kasthuri Venkateswaran

    Microbiome 2016 4:22

    Published on: 2 June 2016

  2. Review

    Toward a microbial Neolithic revolution in buildings

    The Neolithic revolution—the transition of our species from hunter and gatherer to cultivator—began approximately 14,000 years ago and is essentially complete for macroscopic food. Humans remain largely pre-Ne...

    David S. Thaler

    Microbiome 2016 4:14

    Published on: 29 March 2016

  3. Software

    ghost-tree: creating hybrid-gene phylogenetic trees for diversity analyses

    Fungi play critical roles in many ecosystems, cause serious diseases in plants and animals, and pose significant threats to human health and structural integrity problems in built environments. While most fung...

    Jennifer Fouquier, Jai Ram Rideout, Evan Bolyen, John Chase, Arron Shiffer, Daniel McDonald, Rob Knight, J Gregory Caporaso and Scott T. Kelley

    Microbiome 2016 4:11

    Published on: 24 February 2016

  4. Commentary

    Making microbiology of the built environment relevant to design

    Architects are enthusiastic about “bioinformed design” as occupant well-being is a primary measure of architectural success. However, architects are also under mounting pressure to create more sustainable buil...

    G. Z. Brown, Jeff Kline, Gwynne Mhuireach, Dale Northcutt and Jason Stenson

    Microbiome 2016 4:6

    Published on: 16 February 2016

  5. Methodology

    A simple novel device for air sampling by electrokinetic capture

    A variety of different sampling devices are currently available to acquire air samples for the study of the microbiome of the air. All have a degree of technical complexity that limits deployment. Here, we eva...

    Julian Gordon, Prasanthi Gandhi, Gajendra Shekhawat, Angel Frazier, Jarrad Hampton-Marcell and Jack A. Gilbert

    Microbiome 2015 3:79

    Published on: 27 December 2015

  6. Review

    Sources of airborne microorganisms in the built environment

    Each day people are exposed to millions of bioaerosols, including whole microorganisms, which can have both beneficial and detrimental effects. The next chapter in understanding the airborne microbiome of the ...

    Aaron J. Prussin II and Linsey C. Marr

    Microbiome 2015 3:78

    Published on: 22 December 2015

  7. Research

    Potential association of vacuum cleaning frequency with an altered gut microbiota in pregnant women and their 2-year-old children

    Westernized lifestyle and hygienic behavior have contributed to dramatic changes in the human-associated microbiota. This particularly relates to indoor activities such as house cleaning. We therefore investig...

    Ekaterina Avershina, Anuradha Ravi, Ola Storrø, Torbjørn Øien, Roar Johnsen and Knut Rudi

    Microbiome 2015 3:65

    Published on: 21 December 2015

  8. Review

    The microbiome of the built environment and mental health

    The microbiome of the built environment (MoBE) is a relatively new area of study. While some knowledge has been gained regarding impacts of the MoBE on the human microbiome and disease vulnerability, there is ...

    Andrew J. Hoisington, Lisa A. Brenner, Kerry A. Kinney, Teodor T. Postolache and Christopher A. Lowry

    Microbiome 2015 3:60

    Published on: 17 December 2015

  9. Research

    Microbial aerosol liberation from soiled textiles isolated during routine residuals handling in a modern health care setting

    A wide variety of specialty textiles are used in health care settings for bedding, clothing, and privacy. The ability of textiles to host or otherwise sequester microbes has been well documented; however, thei...

    Alina Handorean, Charles E. Robertson, J. Kirk Harris, Daniel Frank, Natalie Hull, Cassandra Kotter, Mark J. Stevens, Darrel Baumgardner, Norman R. Pace and Mark Hernandez

    Microbiome 2015 3:72

    Published on: 9 December 2015

  10. Research

    A viability-linked metagenomic analysis of cleanroom environments: eukarya, prokaryotes, and viruses

    Recent studies posit a reciprocal dependency between the microbiomes associated with humans and indoor environments. However, none of these metagenome surveys has considered the viability of constituent microo...

    Thomas Weinmaier, Alexander J. Probst, Myron T. La Duc, Doina Ciobanu, Jan-Fang Cheng, Natalia Ivanova, Thomas Rattei and Parag Vaishampayan

    Microbiome 2015 3:62

    Published on: 8 December 2015

  11. Meeting Report

    Summary of Sloan symposium: healthy buildings 2015-Europe

    The Sloan Symposium, “Microbiology of the Indoor Environment,” was held to facilitate dialog on biological research between scientists and practitioners in the field which was complementary to the adjoining ac...

    Hal Levin, Martin Täubel and Mark Hernandez

    Microbiome 2015 3:68

    Published on: 2 December 2015

  12. Research

    Microbial biogeography of a university campus

    Microorganisms are distributed on surfaces within homes, workplaces, and schools, with the potential to impact human health and disease. University campuses represent a unique opportunity to explore the distri...

    Ashley A. Ross and Josh D. Neufeld

    Microbiome 2015 3:66

    Published on: 1 December 2015

  13. Research

    The first microbial environment of infants born by C-section: the operating room microbes

    Newborns delivered by C-section acquire human skin microbes just after birth, but the sources remain unknown. We hypothesized that the operating room (OR) environment contains human skin bacteria that could be...

    Hakdong Shin, Zhiheng Pei, Keith A. Martinez II, Juana I. Rivera-Vinas, Keimari Mendez, Humberto Cavallin and Maria G. Dominguez-Bello

    Microbiome 2015 3:59

    Published on: 1 December 2015

    The Erratum to this article has been published in Microbiome 2016 4:4

  14. Research

    Microbiomes of the dust particles collected from the International Space Station and Spacecraft Assembly Facilities

    The International Space Station (ISS) is a unique built environment due to the effects of microgravity, space radiation, elevated carbon dioxide levels, and especially continuous human habitation. Understandin...

    Aleksandra Checinska, Alexander J. Probst, Parag Vaishampayan, James R. White, Deepika Kumar, Victor G. Stepanov, George E. Fox, Henrik R. Nilsson, Duane L. Pierson, Jay Perry and Kasthuri Venkateswaran

    Microbiome 2015 3:50

    Published on: 27 October 2015

  15. Research

    Microbiota of the indoor environment: a meta-analysis

    As modern humans, we spend the majority of our time in indoor environments. Consequently, environmental exposure to microorganisms has important implications for human health, and a better understanding of the...

    Rachel I. Adams, Ashley C. Bateman, Holly M. Bik and James F. Meadow

    Microbiome 2015 3:49

    Published on: 13 October 2015

  16. Research

    Passive dust collectors for assessing airborne microbial material

    Settled airborne dust is used as a surrogate for airborne exposure in studies that explore indoor microbes. In order to determine whether detecting differences in dust environments would depend on the sampler ...

    Rachel I. Adams, Yilin Tian, John W. Taylor, Thomas D. Bruns, Anne Hyvärinen and Martin Täubel

    Microbiome 2015 3:46

    Published on: 5 October 2015