Indoor air bacterial communities in Hong Kong households assemble independently of occupant skin microbiomes

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1754-1763
Journal / PublicationEnvironmental Microbiology
Issue number6
Online published29 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


More than in any other habitat, humans exert a large influence on microbial communities indoors. Frequent contact between occupant skin and indoor surfaces causes indoor surface microbial communities to be largely assembled from and thus closely resemble occupant skin microbiomes. While indoor air and dust are known to also contain many human-associated taxa, household air communities have not yet been directly compared with occupant skin microbiomes. We sampled microorganisms from air, surfaces and occupant skin in 19 Hong Kong households and used Illumina sequencing of the V4 hypervariable region of the 16S rRNA gene to investigate the dispersal relationships between the bacterial communities at each site. Our results confirmed that indoor surfaces bear the ‘bacterial fingerprint’ of household occupant skin. However, while air communities contained abundant human-associated taxa and were household specific, air communities in each household did not resemble occupant skin from that household any more than occupant skin from other households. Our results suggest that, at least in Hong Kong, indoor air bacterial communities may be assembled largely from outdoor air and occupant body sites other than skin, and unlike surface communities do not harbour the occupants' skin ‘bacterial fingerprint’.