The potential importance of the built-environment microbiome and its impact on human health

Thomas C.G. Bosch, Mark Wigley, Beatriz Colomina, Brendan Bohannan, Forrest Meggers, Katherine R. Amato, Meghan B. Azad, Martin J. Blaser, Kate Brown, Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, B. Brett Finlay, Kate Geddie, Naama Geva-Zatorsky, Tamara Giles-Vernick, Philippe Gros, Karen Guillemin, Stanislav Dusko Ehrlich, Eran Elinav, Louis Patrick Haraoui, Elizabeth JohnsonFrédéric Keck, Jamie Lorimer, Margaret J. McFall-Ngai, Mark Nichter, Sven Pettersson, Hendrik Poinar, Tobias Rees, Carolina Tropini, Eduardo A. Undurraga, Liping Zhao, Melissa K. Melby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is increasing evidence that interactions between microbes and their hosts not only play a role in determining health and disease but also in emotions, thought, and behavior. Built environments greatly influence microbiome exposures because of their built-in highly specific microbiomes coproduced with myriad metaorganisms including humans, pets, plants, rodents, and insects. Seemingly static built structures host complex ecologies of microorganisms that are only starting to be mapped. These microbial ecologies of built environments are directly and interdependently affected by social, spatial, and technological norms. Advances in technology have made these organisms visible and forced the scientific community and architects to rethink gene-environment and microbe interactions respectively. Thus, built environment design must consider the microbiome, and research involving host-microbiome interaction must consider the built-environment. This paradigm shift becomes increasingly important as evidence grows that contemporary built environments are steadily reducing the microbial diversity essential for human health, well-being, and resilience while accelerating the symptoms of human chronic diseases including environmental allergies, and other more life-altering diseases. New models of design are required to balance maximizing exposure to microbial diversity while minimizing exposure to human-associated diseases. Sustained trans-disciplinary research across time (evolutionary, historical, and generational) and space (cultural and geographical) is needed to develop experimental design protocols that address multigenerational multispecies health and health equity in built environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2313971121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 14 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Anthropocene
  • architectural design
  • evolution
  • metaorganism
  • microbiome


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