Do you ever feel like you’re all alone in the world? Well, don’t. At every moment of your life,you’re surrounded by a cloud of bacteria. These microbial companions are so unique to you that the cloud — which you leave traces of everywhere you go — might actually be as identifiable as a fingerprint.
In a study published Tuesday in PeerJ, researchers report that the unique signatures of bacteria a person left in the air can be used to identify them in just four hours of analysis.
The researchers placed subjects in sanitized chambers for 90 minutes, then tested the “cloud” of microbes they’d left behind in the air. Previous research has shown that humans change the microbial balance of their environments quite quickly. Your house will have a bacterial signature that fits your family and pets, but it will change as soon as you hire a dog sitter and leave for vacation. Meanwhile, your hotel room — full of strange bacteria — will adapt to your family’s microbiome within hours.