Many people have heard of the microbiota in our digestive tracts. This collection of bacteria, viruses and fungi live together inside us and impact our health. It is sometimes referred to as the “microbiome” because the members are identified by analysis of their genomes. We now know that a similar microbiota inhabits our skin, our lungs, our genitals and even our brains. Do we have an invisible cloud of microscopic living things in the air surrounding us?
Tracking Your Invisible Cloud:
Researchers at Stanford University have just reported an invisible cloud in the air around each of us (Cell, Sept 20, 2018). This cloud, which moves with us and changes over space and time, contains more than the microbiome. To learn about it, the scientists first developed a device about as big as a pack of cards. It sampled and analyzed the air in an individual’s vicinity for time frames from a week to a month.
Fifteen volunteers utilized the invisible cloud devices for this study. As a result, the investigators discovered that each person’s unique exposome contains volatile compounds such as insecticides or essential oils as well as bacteria, fungi, viruses and pollen.
Even people who spent a lot of time hanging out together had a different set of components in their exposome. Significantly, some of the exposures appear related to allergies and other health problems.
The authors conclude:
“Overall, we demonstrate that human exposomes are diverse, dynamic, spatiotemporally-driven interaction networks with the potential to impact human health.”