home Buildings, Chemistry of BE, Urban Microbiomes, Water Systems New papers on Microbiology of the Built Environment, April 23, 2017

New papers on Microbiology of the Built Environment, April 23, 2017

Catching up after a couple of busy weeks.

Microbes in the hospital

Diversity changes of microbial communities into hospital surface environments – Rika Yano – Journal of Infection and Chemotherapy ($31.50) 

Hospital bed. Source: Wikipedia.com

Previous works have demonstrated considerable variability in hospital cleanliness in Japan, suggesting that contamination is driven by factors that are currently poorly controlled. We undertook 16S rRNA sequence analysis to study population structures of hospital environmental microbiomes to see which factor(s) impacted contamination. One hundred forty-four samples were collected from surfaces of three hospitals with distinct sizes (…) We demonstrated diversity changes of hospital environmental microbiomes with a skewed population, presumably by medical staff pushing NWs or sinks shared by patients or visitors.

Microbes and laundry

Laundry hygiene—how to get more than clean – D.P. Bockmühl – Journal of Applied Microbiology (OA)

Input and removal of micro-organisms during laundry-related processes. After Bockmühl (2011).

Although laundering should mainly remove stains and dirt from used and worn textiles, the elimination of microbial contamination is an important aim of the laundry process as well. While industrial and institutional laundering employs standardized processes using high temperatures (i.e. 60°C and above) and bleaching agents to ensure a sufficient hygienic reconditioning of textiles, domestic laundering processes are less defined and not always led by purposeful aims. (…) This review compiles the different factors that influence the input and removal of micro-organisms in the laundering process and discusses the possible adverse effects of microbial contaminants in the washing machine and on the textiles as well as suitable counteractions.

Microbes and buildings

Biocide Runoff from Building Facades: Degradation Kinetics in Soil – Ulla E. Bollmann – Environmental Science & Technology ($40 for 48h)

Graphical abstract, detail

Biocides are common additives in building materials. In-can and film preservatives in polymer-resin render and paint, as well as wood preservatives are used to protect facade materials from microbial spoilage. Biocides leach from the facade material with driving rain, leading to highly polluted runoff water (up to several mg L–1 biocides) being infiltrated into the soil surrounding houses. In the present study the degradation rates in soil of 11 biocides used for the protection of building materials were determined in laboratory microcosms. (…) Consequently, residues of some biocides are likely to be continuously present due to repeated input and most biocides can be considered as “pseudo-persistent”-contaminants in this context. This was verified by (sub)urban soil screening, where concentrations of up to 0.1 μg g–1 were detected for parent compounds as well as terbutryn degradation products in soils below biocide treated facades.

Bacterial diversity on rock surface of the ruined part of a French historic monument: The Chaalis abbey – Agnes Mihajlovski – International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation ($35.95)

Abbaye de Chaalis. Source: Wikimedia.org

The aim of the present study was to analyze the epilithic bacterial diversity of the ruins of the Chaalis Abbey, France. To do this, stone samples were collected at the surface of three areas presenting different macroscopic characteristics: a Discolored Area (DCA), a Damaged Area (DMA) and an Undamaged Area (UDMA). (…) In conclusion, these results suggest that the ruins of the Chaalis Abbey are covered by bacterial communities mainly composed of Alphaproteobacteria and Actinobacteria able to colonize and, for some of them, to deteriorate stone.

Microbes and money

Filthy lucre: A metagenomic pilot study of microbes found on circulating currency in New York City – Julia M. Maritz – PLOS ONE (OA)

Comparison of organisms identified in the Winter 2013 data by direct annotation of unassembled reads and de novo metagenomic assembly analysis methods.

Paper currency by its very nature is frequently transferred from one person to another and represents an important medium for human contact with—and potential exchange of—microbes. In this pilot study, we swabbed circulating $1 bills obtained from a New York City bank in February (Winter) and June (Summer) 2013 and used shotgun metagenomic sequencing to profile the communities found on their surface. Using basic culture conditions, we also tested whether viable microbes could be recovered from bills. (…) Our results suggest that money amalgamates DNA from sources inhabiting the human microbiome, food, and other environmental inputs, some of which can be recovered as viable organisms. These monetary communities may be maintained through contact with human skin, and DNA obtained from money may provide a record of human behavior and health.

Microbes in plumbing

Methodological approaches for monitoring opportunistic pathogens in premise plumbing: A review – Hong Wang – Water Research ($35.95)

Graphical abstract, detail.

Opportunistic premise (i.e., building) plumbing pathogens (OPPPs, e.g., Legionella pneumophila, Mycobacterium avium complex, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acanthamoeba, and Naegleria fowleri) are a significant and growing source of disease.  (…) The aim of this critical review is to evaluate the state of the science of monitoring OPPPs and identify a path forward for their parallel detection and quantification in a manner commensurate with the need for reliable data that is informative to risk assessment and mitigation.

Early outbreak detection by linking health advice line calls to water distribution areas retrospectively demonstrated in a large waterborne outbreak of cryptosporidiosis in Sweden –
Pär Bjelkmar – BMC Public Health (OA)

Epidemiological curve based on observed cases in the web questionnaire

In the winter and spring of 2011 a large outbreak of cryptosporidiosis occurred in Skellefteå municipality, Sweden. This study summarizes the outbreak investigation in terms of outbreak size, duration, clinical characteristics, possible source(s) and the potential for earlier detection using calls to a health advice line.(…) The outbreak went unnoticed to authorities for several months. The analysis of the calls to the health advice line provides strong indications early in the outbreak that it was linked to a particular water treatment plant. (…) We conclude that an earlier detection of the outbreak by linking calls to a health advice line to water distribution areas could have limited the outbreak substantially.

Impact of water heater temperature setting and water use frequency on the building plumbing microbiome – Pan Ji – The ISME Journal (OA)

Taxonomic profiles of sample groups at the phylum level

Hot water plumbing is an important conduit of microbes into the indoor environment and can increase risk of opportunistic pathogens (for example, Legionella pneumophila). We examined the combined effects of water heater temperature (39, 42, 48, 51 and 58 °C), pipe orientation (upward/downward), and water use frequency (21, 3 and 1 flush per week) on the microbial composition at the tap using a pilot-scale pipe rig. (…)  This study takes a step towards intentional control of the plumbing microbiome and highlights the importance of microbial ecology in governing pathogen proliferation.

Longitudinal and Source-to-Tap New Orleans, LA, U.S.A. Drinking Water Microbiology – Natalie M. Hull – Environmental Science & Technlogy ($40 for 48h)

Graphical abstract, detail

The two municipal drinking water systems of New Orleans, LA, U.S.A. were sampled to compare the microbiology of independent systems that treat the same surface water from the Mississippi River. To better understand temporal trends and sources of microbiology delivered to taps, these treatment plants and distribution systems were subjected to source-to-tap sampling over four years. Both plants employ traditional treatment by chloramination, applied during or after settling, followed by filtration before distribution in a warm, low water age system. (…) Source water microbiology was most divergent from tap water, and each step of treatment brought samples more closely similar to tap waters.

Comparison of microbial community shifts in two parallel multi-step drinking water treatment processes – Jiajiong Xu – Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology ($30.95)

Drinking water treatment, EPA, CDC

Drinking water treatment processes remove undesirable chemicals and microorganisms from source water, which is vital to public health protection. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of treatment processes and configuration on the microbiome by comparing microbial community shifts in two series of different treatment processes operated in parallel within a full-scale drinking water treatment plant (DWTP) in Southeast China.

Microbes and agriculture

Short-term effects of great cormorant droppings on water quality and microbial community of an artificial agricultural reservoir – Il Han – Journal of Environmental Quality

Great cormorant drying its wings – and likely to poop in the water at some point. Souce: Wikipedia

Agricultural reservoirs are established to improve the management of water resources. Waterbirds in protected waters have become a nuisance, however, as nutrients from fecal deposits transported by the waterbirds have served to severely deteriorate water quality. Despite the importance of clean water resources, the microecology of small agricultural reservoirs regularly colonized by transitory waterbirds are seldom reviewed. To improve our understanding of the influence of waterbirds on small bodies of water, a microcosm study was conducted using water and sediment from an agricultural reservoir inhabited by 300 to 500 great cormorants. (…) These results confirm the short-term water quality impairment and shift in microbial community structure caused by waterbird droppings and bird colony surface runoff in an agricultural reservoir.


Elisabeth Bik

After receiving my PhD at Utrecht University in The Netherlands, I worked at the Dutch National Institute for Health and the St. Antonius Hospital in Nieuwegein. In 2001, I joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford, where I have worked on the characterization of the microbiome of human oral, gastric, and intestinal samples, as well as samples from marine mammals. Since November 2016, I am the new Science Editor at uBiome, a microbiome genomics company enabling citizen science. But you might also find me working on the detection of science misconduct, at my blog Microbiome Digest , an almost daily compilation of scientific papers in the rapidly growing microbiome field, on Twitter at @MicrobiomDigest.

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