Microbial Sequencing Analyses Suggest the Presence of a Fecal Veneer on Indoor Climbing Wall Holds

Abstract

Artificial climbing walls represent a unique indoor environment in which humans interact closely with a variety of surface types. Climbing wall holds may mediate transmission of organisms between individuals, and yet there are no studies that identify microorganisms present on these surfaces. In the current study, the microorganisms found on climbing wall holds were characterized by analysis of amplified SSU rRNA gene sequences. In contrast to many other studies of built environments, the majority of microorganisms on holds were most closely related to microbes annotated as being recovered from environmental sources, such as soil, with human skin also representing an important source. Regional patterns were evident as rRNA gene sequences from the marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus were abundant in gyms found within 16 km of the ocean. Enterobacteriaceae were present on 100 % of holds surveyed, and the members detected are commonly associated with fecal matter.

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Acknowledgments

This research was performed, in part, by participants in the MBL Microbial Diversity Course in Woods Hole, MA, and was supported in part by the Howard Hughes Medical Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (2493), the National Science Foundation (DEB-091799), the US Department of Energy (DE-FG02-10ER13361), and the NASA Astrobiology Institute. We thank Carey (Trey) Snellings for assistance with culturing conducted at Appalachian State University. Finally, we want to acknowledge four anonymous climbing gym facility managers for allowing us to sample holds and climbing routes.

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Correspondence to S. L. Bräuer.

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Bräuer, S.L., Vuono, D., Carmichael, M.J. et al. Microbial Sequencing Analyses Suggest the Presence of a Fecal Veneer on Indoor Climbing Wall Holds. Curr Microbiol 69, 681–689 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00284-014-0643-3

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Keywords

  • Prochlorococcus
  • Fecal Indicator Bacterium
  • Abundant OTUs
  • Climbing Wall
  • Great Sequencing Depth