Each city has its own distinctive features, such as the Statue of Liberty in New York, the pyramids at Giza and the Colosseum in Rome. But did you ever imagine that these cities are also characterized by microbial organisms?
This question aroused the curiosity of an international team of scientists. A recent research paper , published in the journal Cell on May 26, indicated that each city has a unique fingerprint of the microbial organisms that inhabit it. So this microbial fingerprint, which can stick to your shoes, is enough to reveal where you live. Read also A unique achievement… the creation of the largest genome catalog of Earth’s micrometer After examining 28,000 people, 140,000 new viruses were discovered in our intestines Something in the human intestine may be the secret of protection from corona… What is it?A new genetic approach to studying virus-microbe interactions
In this study, scientists collected nearly 5,000 samples over 3 years from 60 cities around the world. These samples were collected from surfaces in public places, from ticket counters to entrance gates of metro stations and seats of mass transit. Their surfaces were scanned for 3 minutes to collect the genetic material of these microbial communities, including viruses and bacteria.
The results – which the researchers deposited on the open-source MetaSUB database, which was established as a global consortium documenting urban microbes with which millions of people interact daily – showed that there is a marked difference in the abundance of these communities between different cities.
And 97% of these cities showed that only 31 types of microbes had in common. Scientists have dubbed these microbes the “core urban microbiome.”
According to the press release published by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), the results showed that there are no two cities with the same microbial footprint. The study revealed that each city has a “unique molecular fingerprint” of the microbial species that inhabit it, which is different from the microbial communities found in other cities.
previously undiscovered societies
It is worth noting that these samples were collected between 2015-2017, that is, before the outbreak of the SARS Cove-2 virus. In addition, the results showed the presence of thousands of species of previously unknown microbial organisms, which included about 11,000 viruses and more than 1,300 types of bacteria, which are not classified among any of the known species.
“Every time we take the subway, a completely new species of microbe follows us on our journey,” says Christopher Mason, a professor at Cornell University and the study’s lead author.
Regarding the noticeable discrepancy in microbial communities between these countries, David Danko, first author of the study and director of bioinformatics at the Metasub Consortium, says that samples taken from coastal cities contain halophytic microbes, “while densely populated cities show an amazing biological diversity of these microbial organisms.”
And what’s interesting is that these microbes, which get stuck in your shoes as you walk around these cities, enable us to predict your habitat with 90% accuracy.
Of course, the abundance and diversity of microbes in different cities may have implications for human health. “Cities in general have an impact on human health,” the study authors say. “However, this effect varies from city to city and is not yet well understood.”
Beyond epidemics and their effects on the community, the researchers believe that “our understanding of the microbial mechanisms that exist in the community appears to be just beginning.”
The researchers hope to use this knowledge to identify hotspots that may carry any health threats, such as strains of bacteria circulating in an area being resistant to antibiotics. Knowing these types of microbes will also enable the identification of latent pathogens present in each individual city.
And here remains an intriguing mystery: the secret behind each city’s unique microbial footprint. Is it something random, or are there deeper explanations for the geographic differences between those cities?