Bacteria is everywhere. Literally. In the ground, on the subway, in and on your body. I mean we are mostly made up of bacteria.
There’s more of them then there are of us. For every one of our cells, there’s ten
The most bacteria in the body can be found in the gut. Which isn’t all the surprising,
there’s been a lot of research lately about the microbiome, the ecosystem of bacteria
that lives in and on us. One small study published in the journal Science found that other bacteria-laden
areas of the body include your palms, behind your knees, and your feet. But the most diversity
on your body? That can be found on your found on your forearms. Weird right?
But it’s not just in and on our bodies. It’s AROUND our bodies. We literally walk
with a cloud of bacteria everywhere we go. Kind of like pigpen from Peanuts. In a study
published in the journal Peer J researchers captured air surrounding participants. They
had people sit in boxes for four hours and measured the air around them. They found they
could identify thousands of types of bacterial DNA and could tell whether the person was
male or female!
So basically you can get someone else’s microbes even when you’re just standing
next to them. Great. That’s gonna make commutes awkward.
So once that bacteria leave us, where does it go? Well the most bacteria laden places
tend to be places like public transit.
One really cool study of recent years was a massive undertaking by researchers at Weill
Cornell Medical College. They swabbed thousands and thousands of surfaces of the New York
City subway system. A system that sees nearly 5.5 million people per day passing through
its stations and trains.
Their findings were published in the journal Cell systems. In total they found DNA from
more than 15-thousand different life-forms. Almost half of the DNA belonged to bacteria.
But I should say most of the bacteria they found is harmless. Only 12% were linked to
But it’s not just in public, it’s at home too. There’s millions and millions of microbes
in nearly every nook and cranny of our homes. And one study published in the journal Science
analyzed the homes of seven families over the course of a few weeks. And they found
something surprising. The people seemed to make the bacteria. Like when three of the
families moved, it only took one day for their new house to look like their old house, microbially
And bathrooms. Man, bathrooms. Bathrooms are pretty gross. But not as gross as you’d
think. Turns out your bathroom is dominated by bacteria from… your skin. Yeah, not what
you’d expect. Yeah bacteria from your bum like Roseburia and Blautia and bacteria from
other nether regions like Lactobacillus and Anaerococcus are present in restrooms. But
only briefly. Bathrooms are too cold, too dry, and oxygen rich to support growth of
these kinds of bacteria. Instead 68-98 percent of the bacteria the researchers found came
from skin and from outdoors!
So the germiest place in your home isn’t the toilet. One study published in the Journal
of Applied Microbiology found that it’s the kitchen. Especially the areas that remain
moist like the kitchen sink which gets touched a lot. The study found that the sink can have
nearly 100,000 bacteria per square centimeter. Where the toilet only has about 100. and let’s
not even mention the dish sponge. ugh. They have the highest concentration of bacteria
of any place in the home. GROSS.
But bacteria gets a bad rap. It’s not all bad! In fact some of it’s pretty good for
us. Research shows that being exposed to more bacteria actually bolsters our immune systems.
Seriously, there’s theories out there that say we’re actually too clean in our environments
leading to modern diseases like asthma. And it’s just as much a part of us as anything
else. So while if I were I’d toss out the dish sponge right now, a fine balance of bacteria
seems to be just what the doctor ordered.
But the dish shop isn’t the only thing that’s covered in bacteria, you cell phone is pretty
freaking gross. Check out how gross in this episode right here