Background: Humans can spend the majority of their time indoors, but little is known about the interactions between the human and built-environment microbiomes or the forces that drive microbial community assembly in the built environment. We sampled 16S rRNA genes from four different surface types throughout a university classroom to determine whether bacterial assemblages on each surface were best predicted by routine human interactions or by proximity to other surfaces within the classroom. We then analyzed our data with publicly-available datasets representing potential source environments.
Results: Bacterial assemblages from the four surface types, as well as individual taxa, were indicative of different source pools related to the type of human contact each surface routinely encounters. Spatial proximity to other surfaces in the classroom did not predict community composition.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that human-associated microbial communities can be transferred to indoor surfaces following contact, and that such transmission is possible even when contact is indirect, but that proximity to other surfaces in the classroom does not influence community composition.