A generation ago, microbiologists were poorly acquainted with microbiomes. There is now a considerable amount of research being conducted into the human microbiome, with the specific objective of understanding how our body interacts with the mass of microbes that use our bodies as their home.

A microbiome may be thought of as the collection of microbes such as bacteria that inhabit any given environment. Any environment – such as the human body, a building or a city – can possess a microbiome. The human microbiome is therefore, composed of the various populations of bacteria, fungi and viruses which colonize our skin.

The human microbiome is made up of trillions of microbes, creating as much as 3% of the mass of the human body – about a fifth of how much our skin accounts for.

Interest in the human microbiome developed even more recently (less than 30 years ago) when the influence of gut microorganisms on human health was considered and researched. Now a wide spectrum of human disease – from diabetes to rheumatoid arthritis – has been linked with the microbes that inhabit us.

The expanse of microbiome research has now spread beyond the human body. The question is, does this or that microbiome influence human health too? For example, the microbiome of the built environment.

This series of articles will describe the microbiome of the built environment and present current knowledge with respect to human health and those microorganisms that inhabit the built spaces that we live and work, and the impact or effects they have on those spaces and the people that occupy them – us.