Microbial analyses of airborne dust collected from dormitory rooms predict the sex of occupants

J. C. Luongo, A. Barberán, R. Hacker-Cary, E. E. Morgan, S. L. Miller, N. Fierer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


We have long known that human occupants are a major source of microbes in the built environment, thus raising the question: How much can we learn about the occupants of a building by analyzing the microbial communities found in indoor air? We investigated bacterial and fungal diversity found in airborne dust collected onto heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) air filters and settling plates from 91 rooms within a university dormitory. The sex of the room occupants had the most significant effect on the bacterial communities, while the room occupants had no significant effect on fungal communities. By examining the abundances of bacterial genera, we could predict the sex of room occupants with 79% accuracy, a finding that demonstrates the potential forensic applications of studying indoor air microbiology. We also identified which bacterial taxa were indicators of female and male rooms, and found that those taxa often identified as members of the vaginal microbiome were more common in female-occupied rooms while taxa associated with human skin or the male urogenital microbiota were more common in male-occupied rooms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-344
Number of pages7
JournalIndoor Air
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Bacteria
  • Bioaerosol
  • Built environment microbiome
  • Dust
  • HVAC filter
  • Indoor air

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Microbial analyses of airborne dust collected from dormitory rooms predict the sex of occupants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this