A Meta-analysis of the Hong Kong Built Environment Microbiomes

Project: ResearchGRF

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Urban citizens spend most of their times indoors, where they are constantly exposed to microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. The microbial community found indoor constitutes the built environment microbiome. Some microbes of the microbiome are potential pathogens, and low microbiome diversity indoors has been associated with adverse health effects of occupants. Therefore, it is crucial to determine the microbiome composition in built environments, and determine whether changes in building and other properties, including building location, type, occupancy, and season, are associated with microbiome variations. Such information will help practitioners devise strategies to protect the health of occupants. Through culture-independent amplicon sequencing, we now know that the built environment microbiome is more diverse than previously appreciated. Shotgun metagenomic sequencing has also provided insights 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 indoor microbiome, while studies report the detection of metabolic, antimicrobial resistance, and virulence genes in buildings. Most current built environment studies are conducted in the western world. In Hong Kong, we have previously used amplicon sequencing to determine the microbiomes of residences, the subway, and a zero carbon building. However, there is no large-scale microbiome study conducted across commercial buildings in Hong Kong. Because commercial buildings constitute a major proportion of built environments in Hong Kong, we propose an innovative research plan in this study to characterize the microbiome of this key building type over seasons. Using taxonomic marker gene-based sequencing, we will determine the community composition of bacterial and fungal communities within (indoor air and surface) and around (outdoor air) commercial buildings in the city, and ascertain whether building, occupancy, and season contribute to microbiome variations. Shotgun sequencing will then be used to detect the genetic potentials of the microbiomes in these commercial buildings. Finally, shotgun sequencing will be applied to archived air samples from residences, subway, and zero carbon building and a meta-analysis of functional potentials will be performed together with the commercial buildings. The effects of building, occupant, and seasonal attributes on genetic potential variations, including relative abundances of antimicrobial resistance and virulence genes, between buildings will be investigated. Overall, this study will provide a city-wide assessment of microbiomes in key built environments and the results can be translated into recommendations for practitioners so that built environments can be designed and operated to ensure the health of occupants. ?


Effective start/end date1/01/18 → …