While not directly related to microbiology, this story about house dust caught my eye. The title of the press release really says it all, “House dust spurs growth of fat cells in lab tests”. Looks like the probable guilty compounds are man-made things like fire retardants but there’s certainly a possibility for microbially produced volatiles and metabolites to have similar effects. Abstract below, sadly the paper itself is closed access.
Obesity and metabolic disorders are of great societal concern and generate significant human health care costs. Recently, attention has focused on the potential for environmental contaminants to act as metabolic disruptors. This study sought to evaluate the adipogenic activity of indoor house dust extracts and a suite of semivolatile organic chemicals (SVOCs) that are often ubiquitously detected in indoor environments. 3T3-L1 cells were exposed to extracts of indoor dust or individual SVOCs and assessed for triglyceride accumulation and preadipocyte proliferation. Ten of 11 house dust extracts exhibited significant triglyceride accumulation and/or proliferation at environmentally relevant levels (<20 μg of dust/well), and significant adipogenic activity was also exhibited by 28 of the SVOCs. Notably, pyraclostrobin, dibutyl phthalate, tert-butyl-phenyl diphenyl phosphate, and the isopropylated triaryl phosphates (ITPs) exhibited near maximal or supra-maximal triglyceride accumulation relative to the rosiglitazone-induced maximum. The adipogenic activity in house dust occurred at concentrations below EPA estimated child exposure levels, and raises concerns for human health impacts, particularly in children. Our results delineate a novel potential health threat and identify putative causative SVOCs that are likely contributing to this activity.