Do you have a dog? Fido may be the reason your home is likely populated by many more types of bacteria than your non-canine-owning neighbor’s.
Researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU) show that households with dogs are home to more types of bacteria, including those rarely found in those without dogs, in a new PLoS One paper.
They also show that bacterial populations vary more between sampling sites—pillowcases, TV screens, cutting boards, exterior doorframe, and so on—within households than among them.
For this study, volunteers from 40 homes swabbed nine common surfaces within their households to help the NCSU team determine which species lived there, and in what abundance.
"We wanted to know what variables influence the microbial ecosystems in our homes, and the biggest difference we've found so far is whether you own a dog," study co-author Rob Dunn, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, said in a statement. "We can tell whether you own a dog based on the bacteria we find on your television screen or pillow case. For example, there are bacteria normally found in soil that are 700 times more common in dog-owning households than in those without dogs."
In total, the researchers identified 7,726 types of bacteria in samples from the 40 homes. Now, they are preparing to process samples from a national survey of 1,300 homes.
"The larger sample size will help us better understand the range of variables that influence these microbial ecosystems," Dr. Dunn said. "Does it matter if you have kids or live in an apartment? We expect the microbial populations of homes in deserts to be different from the populations of homes in Manhattan, but no one knows if that's true. We want to find out."
The study, “Home Life: Factors structuring the bacterial diversity found within and between homes,” appeared online in PLoS One May 22.