TIL: cities have their own microbial signatures

A recent study of 60 cities’ microbes found that each of them had a “signature microbial fingerprint”:

The findings are based on 4,728 samples from cities on six continents taken over the course of three years, characterize regional antimicrobial resistance markers, and represent the first systematic worldwide catalogue of the urban microbial ecosystem. In addition to distinct microbial signatures in various cities, the analysis revealed a core set of 31 species that were found in 97% of samples across the sampled urban areas. The researchers identified 4,246 known species of urban microorganisms, but they also found that any subsequent sampling will still likely continue to find species that have never been seen before, which highlights the raw potential for discoveries related to microbial diversity and biological functions awaiting in urban environments.

via press release

The study is part of a wider mapping project called MetaSUB (Metagenomics & Metadesign of Subways & Urban Biomes) which aims to “build a molecular profile of cities around the globe to improve their design, functionality, and impact on health”. But what do these microbial signatures mean for us, especially during a pandemic? Well, research like this can help scientists detect and predict outbreaks of infections, aid further research in antibiotic-resistant microbes in different environments and discover new microbiomes entirely.

Fascinating as this all is, it makes me want to put my mask on (and make sure you do too!)

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