Human beings are not sterile organisms – we are made up of millions of living microbes. In fact, we shed up to a million particles an hour! That means over the course of a day you will ditch roughly 24 million biological particles (bacteria, viruses, spores and more) into the air around you, forming what scientists are calling a ‘microbe cloud.’ It looks like everyone has a little more in common with Pig-Pen from Peanuts than we thought. 😷
Adam Altrichter, a microbial ecologist at the University of Oregon, and his colleagues asked 11 individuals to spend varying amounts of time in a sanitized sample chamber. Then they sampled the surfaces and the air for microbes.
Researchers discovered that most people could be clearly detected by their airborne bacterial emissions alone, as well as settled particles found on surfaces. Bacterial clouds from the sample groups were statistically distinct! The results show for the first time that individuals release their own personalized microbial cloud. We each give off a slightly different cocktail of bacteria.
“Our results confirm that an occupied space is microbially distinct from an unoccupied one,” the authors wrote, “and reveal for the first time that individuals occupying a space can emit their own distinct personal microbial cloud.”
Our unique ‘microbe clouds’ could have an impact on epidemiology, environmental engineering, or criminal forensics. The findings were published Tuesday in the journal PeerJ.