The Sickly Shower Curtain
Most of us have heard of tuberculosis, but few are familiar with Sphingomonas, a relatively obscure genus of environmental bacteria. Sphingomonas is just one of a number of microbial hangers-on to turn up in a metagenomic analysis of a shower curtain.
The senior author Norm Pace is better known for isolating extreme thermophiles at Yellowstone, their DNA sequence so foreign they might almost come from another planet. But occasionally he turns his attention to extreme environments closer to home, such as the water and air of a hospital therapy pool, or even your own home shower curtain.
DNA analysis reveals many species, and measures how related they are. Some of them, such as Sphingomonas paucimobilis, turn out to be potential pathogens, especially in people with weakened immune systems.
BTW when I first heard this, I finally cleaned all the pink scum off our shower curtain (for the first time in years). My husband’s allergy symptoms immediately cleared up.
Which rarely-thought of parts of a home would you like to see tested? My class tests such environments regularly, and we’re always open to ideas.