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Cities have unique microbiome fingerprints

Each city has its own unique microbiome – a “fingerprint” of viruses and bacteria that uniquely identify it, according to a new study from an international consortium of researchers.

The project, which sequenced and analysed samples collected from public transit systems and hospitals in 60 cities around the world, has now been published in the journal Cell.

The research is considered to be the largest-ever global metagenomic study of urban microbiomes.

It features a comprehensive analysis for all the microbial species identified, including thousands of viruses and bacteria and two newly identified single-cell organisms not found in reference databases.

The findings are based on an analysis of 4728 samples from cities on six continents taken over the course of three years, representing the first systematic worldwide catalogue of the urban microbial ecosystem.

In addition to distinct microbial signatures in various cities, the analysis revealed a core set of 31 species that were found in 97% of samples across the sampled urban areas. 

The samples were collected pre-pandemic, so the researchers are now looking at how the pandemic has affected the microbiome fingerprint of each city.

Image credit | Weill-Cornell-Medicine

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