Exposures Related to House Dust Microbiota in a U.S. Farming Population

Environ Health Perspect. 2018 Jun 1;126(6):067001. doi: 10.1289/EHP3145. eCollection 2018 Jun.


Background: Environmental factors can influence the house dust microbiota, which may impact health outcomes. Little is known about how farming exposures impact the indoor microbiota.

Objective: We aimed to identify exposures related to bacterial communities in house dust in a U.S. farming population.

Methods: We used 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing to characterize bacterial communities in vacuumed dust samples from the bedrooms of a subset of 879 households of farmers and farmers' spouses enrolled in the Agricultural Lung Health Study (ALHS), a case-control study of asthma nested within the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) in North Carolina and Iowa. Information on current farming (past 12 mo), including both crop and animal farming, and other potential microbial sources was obtained via questionnaires. We used linear regression to evaluate associations between exposures and bacterial diversity within each sample, analysis of similarity (ANOSIM), and permutational multivariate analysis of variance (PERMANOVA) to identify exposures related to diversity between samples, and analysis of composition of microbiome to examine whether exposures related to diversity were also related to differential abundance of specific operational taxonomic units (OTUs).

Results: Current farming was positively associated with bacterial diversity in house dust, with or without adjustment for nonfarm exposures related to diversity, including presence of indoor pets, home condition, and season of dust collection. Many taxa exhibited differential abundance related to farming. Some taxa in the phyla Chloroflexi and Verrucomicrobia were associated [false discovery rate (FDR)<0.05] with farming but not with other nonfarm factors. Many taxa correlated with the concentration of house dust of endotoxin, commonly studied as a general marker of exposure to the farming environment.

Conclusions: In this farming population, house dust microbiota differed by current farming status. Understanding the determinants of the indoor microbiota is the first step toward understanding potential relationships with health outcomes. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP3145.

Publication types

  • Research Support, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Agriculture*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Dust / analysis*
  • Endotoxins / analysis
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Female
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Iowa
  • Male
  • Microbiota*
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Pets
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Dust
  • Endotoxins
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S