The Office Microbiome and You

You know those TV commercials pushing probiotics, the ones claiming there’s good microorganisms in your stomach that battle the bad? Well, that’s what healthcare professionals call the Human Microbiome, a balance of microorganisms in internal organs that both regulate health and cause illness. Researchers have for years been mapping the Human Microbiome, much like in the way that predecessors mapped the Human Genome. The idea: by mapping out the microorganisms living in humans, healthcare professionals may be able to see patterns or affect change in the body by modifying the overall mix.

Now, researchers at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) are attempting to map a microbiome for manmade environments, like office buildings, in the hopes that they can understand how microbial environments affect human health.

As part of its study, NAS is looking at the ways different microbials invade built environments, as well as how humans impact these environments, like workplaces. By better understanding the interplay of people and environments, the researchers hope to determine how to influence these environments—like what kinds of building materials, ventilation systems and construction techniques would create positive microbiomes. The final report is expected to be released sometime this year.