What common item harbors “dangerous” microbes today? Gas pump handles

We should have a recurring series on overblown stories about the microbiology of the built environment, particularly on findings that “X” common item harbors bacteria that might kill you.  So far in this vein we’ve discussed dishwashers, money, fast-food playgrounds, hospital curtains, HVAC systems, hospital scrubs, and pillows.  Some of these are good stories, but …

Norovirus long-term survival in water systems

Every time we see Norm Pace we get reminded that the “built environment” doesn’t just include buildings.  In particular, he points out there isn’t a lot of attention paid to the massive, understudied, and deteriorating water infrastructure in the U.S. Today I saw an interesting article about the survival of norovirus in groundwater.  Norovirus is …

Microbes, plants, biowalls and indoor air quality

When I first heard about the 5-story biowall at Drexel University I was impressed.  I’d often heard that plants help clean indoor air and it seemed that having a large experimental setup like this would be great.   Just to briefly summarize, this wall features 12 kinds of plants, all growing hydroponically on a giant mesh.  …

Thousands of unknown viruses found in raw sewage

Viruses often tend to be overlooked in microbiological surveys of the built environment.  This is because they don’t show up in either culture-based methods (which are specific to bacteria or fungi) or the commonly employed newer technique of ribosomal RNA sequencing (because viruses don’t have ribosomes).  Even in metagenomic analyses where viral sequences are present …

Construction of new roads aids dispersal of antibiotic resistant bacteria

This story isn’t so much about the microbiology of the built environment… it’s more about the effect of the built environment on microbiology. A group of researchers from various institutions recently examined the effects of new road construction on the dispersal of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (E. coli in this case).  While perhaps not surprising that the …

Interesting concept, confused reporting on beneficial bacteria indoors

I’ve posted several times in the past about various beneficial uses of bacteria in the built environment, including remediation of art and the idea of probiotics for buildings. Today I saw a story about using beneficial bacteria in cleaning liquid, which supposedly “reduced bad bacteria by 1,000-fold compared with standard cleaning techniques”.  Sounds interesting. Where …

Probiotics for buildings: A potential future application of current work on microbes in buildings

Year 2030 1:  Construct a building 2: Spray bacteria and fungi all around the building 3: Wait a few weeks and then open for business Sound crazy?  Not necessarily.  This scenario, or something like it, is the kind of application that could theoretically come out of current studies on the microbiology of the built environment. …

Microbial art in the built environment: bacterial billboard goes viral

Our reference collection of papers on the microbiology of the built environment has a few papers on microbes and art.  Microbes have both destructive potential and restorative applications, mostly in regard to frescoes and paintings. However we haven’t talked much about using microbes as art, within the built environment. I had to post this story …