Every person emits a unique blend of microbes into the air. The microbial cloud is so personalized that it could be used to identify people.
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The results "demonstrate for the first time that individuals release their own personalized microbial cloud," James Meadow, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.
Trillions of bacteria live on and in the human body. Together, these bacteria make up what researchers call the human microbiome.
Previous studies have found that at least three sources contribute to the airborne cloud of bacteria surrounding us: dust, emissions from clothing and emissions from the person, the researchers wrote in their study, published Tuesday in the journal PeerJ. [Body Bugs: 5 Surprising Facts About Your Microbiome]
"We expected that we would be able to detect the human microbiome in the air around a person, but we were surprised to find that we could identify most of the occupants just by sampling their microbial cloud," said Meadow, who was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oregon at the time of the study.