A Meta-analysis of the Hong Kong Built Environment Microbiomes

Project: Research

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Urban citizens spend most of their times indoors, where they are constantly exposed tomicroorganisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. The microbial communityfound indoor constitutes the built environment microbiome. Some microbes of the microbiomeare potential pathogens, and low microbiome diversity indoors has been associated with adversehealth effects of occupants. Therefore, it is crucial to determine the microbiome composition inbuilt environments, and determine whether changes in building and other properties, includingbuilding location, type, occupancy, and season, are associated with microbiome variations. Suchinformation will help practitioners devise strategies to protect the health of occupants. Throughculture-independent amplicon sequencing, we now know that the built environment microbiomeis more diverse than previously appreciated. Shotgun metagenomic sequencing has also providedinsights into the potential metabolic capabilities of the microbiome. Factors including ventilation,room type, design, occupant activities, and the outdoors may play roles in shaping the indoormicrobiome, while studies report the detection of metabolic, antimicrobial resistance, andvirulence genes in buildings.Most current built environment studies are conducted in the western world. In Hong Kong, wehave previously used amplicon sequencing to determine the microbiomes of residences, thesubway, and a zero carbon building. However, there is no large-scale microbiome studyconducted across commercial buildings in Hong Kong. Because commercial buildings constitutea major proportion of built environments in Hong Kong, we propose an innovative research planin this study to characterize the microbiome of this key building type over seasons. Usingtaxonomic marker gene-based sequencing, we will determine the community composition ofbacterial and fungal communities within (indoor air and surface) and around (outdoor air)commercial buildings in the city, and ascertain whether building, occupancy, and seasoncontribute to microbiome variations. Shotgun sequencing will then be used to detect the geneticpotentials of the microbiomes in these commercial buildings. Finally, shotgun sequencing will beapplied to archived air samples from residences, subway, and zero carbon building and a meta-analysisof functional potentials will be performed together with the commercial buildings. Theeffects of building, occupant, and seasonal attributes on genetic potential variations, includingrelative abundances of antimicrobial resistance and virulence genes, between buildings will beinvestigated. Overall, this study will provide a city-wide assessment of microbiomes in key builtenvironments and the results can be translated into recommendations for practitioners so thatbuilt environments can be designed and operated to ensure the health of occupants.?


Project number9042522
Effective start/end date1/01/18 → …