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      Yearly microbial cycle of human exposed surfaces in show caves

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      Subterranean Biology

      Pensoft Publishers

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          Abstract

          The human impact upon the subterranean microbiomes is not only a peril to the cave environment but might also affect future visitors. We focused on the changes that humans induced on the surfaces they came in direct or indirect contact with inside two intensely visited Romanian show caves, by means of commercially available microbial rapid test kits and molecular identification.

          Overall culturable bacteria abundance in the caves maintained high levels year-round while Enterobacteriaceae, coliform bacteria and Escherichiacoli levels peaked during the touristic season, reaching levels that could pose a threat to the health of the visitors. Culturable fungi abundance usually peaked in the spring, remained at a high level in the summer and started to slowly decrease towards the winter months. Differences were observed between the direct and indirect exposed surfaces, as the later had lower overall levels of bacteria and fungi, with increased Enterobacteriaceae loads. Most of the taxa identified are known biodeteriorants of subterranean surfaces and were previously associated with human altered caves. A Dothideomycete sp. previously unknown to the cave environments was detected.

          This was the first study to analyse the dynamics of the microbial communities of delicate subterranean surfaces in show caves through the use of commercially available test kits. We revealed that exposed surfaces in show caves, in direct or indirect contact with tourists, are host to high concentrations of cultivable microbes. The touristic activity was shown to influence the abundance and dynamics of the microbial communities inhabiting surfaces of show caves.

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          Most cited references 29

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          Microbial Biogeography of Public Restroom Surfaces

          We spend the majority of our lives indoors where we are constantly exposed to bacteria residing on surfaces. However, the diversity of these surface-associated communities is largely unknown. We explored the biogeographical patterns exhibited by bacteria across ten surfaces within each of twelve public restrooms. Using high-throughput barcoded pyrosequencing of the 16 S rRNA gene, we identified 19 bacterial phyla across all surfaces. Most sequences belonged to four phyla: Actinobacteria, Bacteriodetes, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria. The communities clustered into three general categories: those found on surfaces associated with toilets, those on the restroom floor, and those found on surfaces routinely touched with hands. On toilet surfaces, gut-associated taxa were more prevalent, suggesting fecal contamination of these surfaces. Floor surfaces were the most diverse of all communities and contained several taxa commonly found in soils. Skin-associated bacteria, especially the Propionibacteriaceae, dominated surfaces routinely touched with our hands. Certain taxa were more common in female than in male restrooms as vagina-associated Lactobacillaceae were widely distributed in female restrooms, likely from urine contamination. Use of the SourceTracker algorithm confirmed many of our taxonomic observations as human skin was the primary source of bacteria on restroom surfaces. Overall, these results demonstrate that restroom surfaces host relatively diverse microbial communities dominated by human-associated bacteria with clear linkages between communities on or in different body sites and those communities found on restroom surfaces. More generally, this work is relevant to the public health field as we show that human-associated microbes are commonly found on restroom surfaces suggesting that bacterial pathogens could readily be transmitted between individuals by the touching of surfaces. Furthermore, we demonstrate that we can use high-throughput analyses of bacterial communities to determine sources of bacteria on indoor surfaces, an approach which could be used to track pathogen transmission and test the efficacy of hygiene practices.
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            Persistence and differential survival of fecal indicator bacteria in subtropical waters and sediments.

            Fecal coliforms and enterococci are indicator organisms used worldwide to monitor water quality. These bacteria are used in microbial source tracking (MST) studies, which attempt to assess the contribution of various host species to fecal pollution in water. Ideally, all strains of a given indicator organism (IO) would experience equal persistence (maintenance of culturable populations) in water; however, some strains may have comparatively extended persistence outside the host, while others may persist very poorly in environmental waters. Assessment of the relative contribution of host species to fecal pollution would be confounded by differential persistence of strains. Here, freshwater and saltwater mesocosms, including sediments, were inoculated with dog feces, sewage, or contaminated soil and were incubated under conditions that included natural stressors such as microbial predators, radiation, and temperature fluctuations. Persistence of IOs was measured by decay rates (change in culturable counts over time). Decay rates were influenced by IO, inoculum, water type, sediment versus water column location, and Escherichia coli strain. Fecal coliform decay rates were significantly lower than those of enterococci in freshwater but were not significantly different in saltwater. IO persistence according to mesocosm treatment followed the trend: contaminated soil > wastewater > dog feces. E. coli ribotyping demonstrated that certain strains were more persistent than others in freshwater mesocosms, and the distribution of ribotypes sampled from mesocosm waters was dissimilar from the distribution in fecal material. These results have implications for the accuracy of MST methods, modeling of microbial populations in water, and efficacy of regulatory standards for protection of water quality.
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              Geomicrobiology of Caves: A Review

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Subterranean Biology
                SB
                Pensoft Publishers
                1314-2615
                1768-1448
                July 11 2019
                July 11 2019
                : 31
                : 1-14
                Article
                10.3897/subtbiol.31.34490
                © 2019

                http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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