Each individual emits a unique set of microbes into the air that is similar to a cloud of microbes, which could replace fingerprint identification in the future, a new study suggests.
The human microbiome consists of a colossal number of bacteria that live inside and on the surface of the human body, researchers say.
According to previous studies, the ‘cloud of microbes’ that surrounds each person is made up of bacteria coming from three sources: emissions from the person, emissions from clothing, and dust.
In the study, the participants were asked to sit in a sterile room in which the air was filtered. They were given new, disinfected clothing, and sat in a chair that had also been sanitizes. The participants communicated with the researchers using a laptop (they were given the laptop in order to keep themselves entertained).
The researches filtered out of the room any particles that came from the participants, and than ordered them genetically with the purpose of identifying the bacteria.
After that, the researchers conducted two experiments. In the first experiment, three people were asked to stay in a room for four hours and then for another two hours, with a short break in between. After two hours, the researchers compared the air from a room that had been left empty the entire time, with the room where the three participants had sat one at a time. By looking at the bacteria from the air samples, the researchers could determine whether someone had been present in the room.
In the second experiment, researchers wanted to find whether they could identify the participants based on the bacteria that they emitted. This time, eight individuals were asked to sit in the room for 90 minutes.
“We expected that we would be able to detect the human microbiome in the air around a person, but we were surprised to find that we could identify most of the occupants just by sampling their microbial cloud,” stated James Meadow, a post-doctoral researcher in the BioBE Center at the University of Oregon.
The most prevalent bacteria were the Propionibacterium and Corynebacterium, which are found on human skin, and the Streptococcus, which lives in people’s mouths.
Although the results are promising, further investigation is needed before the ‘microbial cloud’ may be used in forensics, the researchers stated.