Journal Club Topic of Discussion: Microbiomes vs Time

Longitudinal analysis of microbial interaction between humans and the indoor environment


The bacteria that colonize humans and our built environments have the potential to influence our health. Microbial communities associated with seven families and their homes over 6 weeks were assessed, including three families that moved their home. Microbial communities differed substantially among homes, and the home microbiome was largely sourced from humans. The microbiota in each home were identifiable by family. Network analysis identified humans as the primary bacterial vector, and a Bayesian method significantly matched individuals to their dwellings. Draft genomes of potential human pathogens observed on a kitchen counter could be matched to the hands of occupants. After a house move, the microbial community in the new house rapidly converged on the microbial community of the occupants’ former house, suggesting rapid colonization by the family’s microbiota.

The Dimension of Time in Host-Microbiome Interactions


The intestinal microbiota contains trillions of commensal microorganisms that shape multiple aspects of host physiology and disease. In contrast to the host’s genome, the microbiome is amenable to change over the course of an organism’s lifetime, providing an opportunity to therapeutically modulate the microbiome’s impact on human pathophysiology. In this Perspective, we highlight environmental factors that regulate the temporal dynamics of the intestinal microbiome, with a particular focus on the different time scales at which they act. We propose that the identification of transient and intermediate states of microbiome responses to perturbations is essential for understanding the rules that govern the behavior of this ecosystem. The delineation of microbiome dynamics is also helpful for distinguishing cause and effect in microbiome responses to environmental stimuli. Understanding the dimension of time in host-microbiome interactions is therefore critical for therapeutic strategies that aim at short-term or long-term engineering of the intestinal microbial community.