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Indoor Air. 2017 Mar;27(2):338-344. doi: 10.1111/ina.12302. Epub 2016 Apr 16.

Microbial analyses of airborne dust collected from dormitory rooms predict the sex of occupants.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA.
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA.
Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA.
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA.


We have long known that human occupants are a major source of microbes in the built environment, thus raising the question: How much can we learn about the occupants of a building by analyzing the microbial communities found in indoor air? We investigated bacterial and fungal diversity found in airborne dust collected onto heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) air filters and settling plates from 91 rooms within a university dormitory. The sex of the room occupants had the most significant effect on the bacterial communities, while the room occupants had no significant effect on fungal communities. By examining the abundances of bacterial genera, we could predict the sex of room occupants with 79% accuracy, a finding that demonstrates the potential forensic applications of studying indoor air microbiology. We also identified which bacterial taxa were indicators of female and male rooms, and found that those taxa often identified as members of the vaginal microbiome were more common in female-occupied rooms while taxa associated with human skin or the male urogenital microbiota were more common in male-occupied rooms.


Bacteria; Bioaerosol; Built environment microbiome; Dust; HVAC filter; Indoor air

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