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House-Sharing With Microbes

Household dust contains up to 1000 different species of microbes, with tens of millions of individual bacterial cells in each gram. And these are just the ones that can be grown in the lab!

Dr Helena Rintala, speaking at the Society for General Microbiology's autumn meeting in Nottingham describes how we share our living and working spaces with millions of microbes, not all of whom are bad news.

Microbes are a part of our normal environment and can be both beneficial and detrimental to our health. "Exposure to microbes in childhood can prevent the development of allergies. On the other hand, mould growth can increase the risk of asthma," said Dr Rintala from the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Finland.

In indoor environments microbes thrive on surfaces that are occasionally moist or wet, for example in the kitchen and bathroom. Prolonged damp anywhere in the house can lead to greater numbers of microbes. "These microbes, their spores and the molecules they secrete can be released into the air which can lead to health problems if they are breathed in," she said.
 
 

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