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A summary of the recent topics posted on microBE.net  


As usual, our blog posts spanned a wide range of topics relevant to the microbiology of the built environment, ranging from kitchens to space stations.


Featured overview: Project MERCCURI






Recent interesting papers:


Microbes in the popular press:


Lectures and slides:


Podcasts and videos:


Methods and Tools:


Soliciting community feedback:

Resource of the Month: ASHRAE 

by Julia Luongo
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is an excellent source of information on ventilation as it affects indoor air quality.  ASHRAE, through its standards committee and technical committees, generates standards and recommends and promotes new and revised standards developed by other responsible organizations.  An interdisciplinary committee of engineers, architects, chemists, physiologists, product manufacturers, and industry representatives develops ASHRAE standards. The standards are voluntary consensus national standards.


ASHRAE Standard 62 has been revised a number of times and the most recent was just released, 62.2-2013, "Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor air Quality in Low-Rise Residential Buildings" and ASHRAE 62.1-2013 "Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality"; the latter has become the guideline by which all indoor air quality is judged. ASHRAE also released an "Indoor Air Quality Guide: Best Practices for Design, Construction, and Commissioning" in 2009, pulling together "practical, technically sound information covering the full range of indoor air quality issues important to practitioners."



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Featured Articles
By Hal Levin

In November, 2012, Curtis Huttenhower began work (with funding from the Sloan Foundation) to examine the transmission of human-associated microbes by public transportation surfaces.


An article on "Big Data" in the current issue of

Harvard Magazine includes a description of Huttenhower's work in the lead article "

Why "Big Data" Is a Big Deal."

After very briefly describing Huttenhower's Sloan Foundation funded work, it quotes him saying: "Just think about the number of things that have changed in the past 50 years that affect microbes," Commercial antibiotics didn't exist until about 50 years ago; our locations have changed; and over a longer period, we have gone from 75 percent of the population working in agriculture to 2 percent; our exposure to animals has changed; our exposure to the environment; our use of agricultural antibiotics has changed; what we eat has changed; the availability of drugs has changed. There are so many things that are different over that timescale that would specifically affect microbes. That is why there is some weight given to the microbiome link to the hygiene hypothesis."


The Harvard Magazine article goes on to discuss "Discerning Patterns in Complexity. Making sense of the relationships between distinct kinds of information is another challenge facing researchers. What insights can be gleaned from connecting gene sequences, health records, and environmental influences? And how can humans understand the results?" 


by David Coil

After 1.5 years of collection events, culturing, identification, and selection of candidates our space microbes experiment finally is in orbit. Our 48 microbes , collected from a variety of built environments on earth, are now whipping around the planet.  The rocket took off from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral at 3:25pm EST yesterday.  In a couple of days they'll dock with the International Space Station (ISS) and start growing.

Equally exciting is the fact that in our "cube" are 15 swab kits for the astronauts to take samples from around the ISS.  In collaboration with Jack Gilbert and the Earth Microbiome Project, we will analyze these swabs for 16S, 18S, and ITS... hopefully giving us a complete picture of the (non-viral, sorry Scott Kelly) microbes present on the ISS.


Really excited to get both the growth data from the "microbial playoffs in space" as well as start working on the swabs.  


By Holly Ganz 


In Dirty Dog: Do Pets Track Bacteria in Your Home? on the Popular Science blog, science journalist Brooke Borel describes her recent experience contributing to the citizen science experiment called The Wild Life of Our Homes run by Rob Dunn and Holly Menninger at North Carolina State University. Here she presents a beautiful graphic depicting how the samples that she collected from her house, herself and her dog compared with some of the other participants in the study. This graphic was published as a sidebar to a longer article on the Wild Life of Our Homes project by Joel Warner in the April issue of Popular Science. One of the interesting things Brooke learned from participating in the study is that apparently she has dog microbes on her tongue and other parts of her body. She wants to know what we all think about sharing our houses, beds, couches and microbes with our pets.


Personally I'm all for microbial sharing with our pets. I even think that we should allow dogs in restaurants, trains, buses and other public places like they do in Europe. I was going to posit that maybe Europeans are better at picking up after their dogs than we are but then I remembered that when I stepped in dog poop last year while visiting Marseille, my friend Marie said "Welcome to France!"

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