Yale engineers think our future homes should be designed with microbes in mind

Bacteria in kitchen
If a healthy home is a happy home, then a happy home might need to be a bit dirty, according to an essay published last week in the journal Trends in Microbiology.

Despite the common correlation between sanitization and health, microbial communities have proven to help immunize people at young ages and keep them healthier into old age. In an essay titled Buildings, Beneficial Microbes, and Health, Yale chemical and environmental engineers Jordan Peccia and Sara E. Kwan suggest we consider how to foster a positive microbial environment within the buildings we inhabit.

“Americans spend 90 percent of our time in buildings, which are covered with bacteria, fungi, pollen, and viruses,” Peccia told Digital Trends. “Understanding how these microbes negatively and beneficially impact our health seems important to me,” he explained, going on to admit that his interest in microbes and living spaces hits close to home: “As a microbial process engineer, it’s the only research topic I’ve worked on that has interested my mother-in-law.”

Infants encounter microbial communities from the moment of birth. In fact, Peccia and Kwan note, there’s evidence to suggest we’re exposed to microbes even through the placenta, months before we begin breathing our own air. In the years following birth, we build up our own microbiomes through contact with our mothers, pets, and our various excursions outdoors. These last two sources are often lacking from an urban family’s lifestyle — but they don’t have to be.

“I like the parallel between living on a farm with animals and living in an urban area and owning a dog,” Peccia said. “Bavarian farmers and the Amish have very low asthma rates, and this has been attributed the early life exposure to microbes that originate from farm animals. Scientists are seeing a similar relationship with dog ownership. A child is less likely to develop allergies if she or he is exposed to a dog in early life. Another study found that symptoms in mice with allergies could be reduced if you gave them dust from a house that contained a dog.”

Further research is needed into how architects and designers might foster beneficial microbial environments within our homes, hangouts, and workspaces, but Peccia thinks this investigation is important. He also recognizes that the study itself is still in its infancy.

“I believe that the path forward will be to clearly identify which microbes are beneficial and uncover their sources,” he said. “And then use tools like aerosol physics and mathematical models to understand how behaviors such as increasing outdoor ventilation or using different building materials governs human exposure to good and bad microbes.”

In the meantime, Peccia also mentioned he has some dog dust for sale, if anyone is interested.

Computing

Microsoft could split up search and Cortana in the next Windows 10 release

In the latest Insider preview build, Microsoft is exploring ways to split up Cortana and search on Windows 10. If Microsoft moves ahead with this change, we could see separate search and Cortana options in the Spring 2019 Update.
Gaming

Hey, Sony! If you make a PS2 Classic, it needs these games

158 million PS2 consoles were sold worldwide during its lifecycle, making it the most successful video game console of all time. It was hard, but we narrowed down the PS2's vast library of games. Here are the best PS2 games of all time.
Computing

Intel's dedicated GPU is not far off -- here's what we know

Did you hear? Intel is working on a dedicated graphics card. It's called Arctic Sound and though we don't know a lot about it, we know that Intel has some ex-AMD Radeon graphics engineers developing it.
Computing

New rumors say the Pixelbook 2 could show up at CES 2019

What will the Pixelbook 2 be like? Google hasn't announced it, but thanks to rumors and leaks, we think we have a pretty good idea of what the potential new flagship Chromebook will be like.
Deals

You don't want to sleep on these red-hot bedding deals

We've rounded up some of the best discounts and sales happening right now, so you can buy yourself (or your loved ones) new bedding without breaking your budget. Trust us when we say these are deals worth losing sleep over.
Deals

Best deals for smart home plugs that control your lights and appliances

Smart hubs and speakers play central communication and management roles in your home, but smart plugs let you add lights and appliances to your system. Any smart plug you buy must support one feature or anything you plug in stays dumb.
Mobile

G’day, Google: U.S. users can now give Assistant a British or Australian accent

U.S. Google Assistant users can give their Assistant a different voice. Google has updated Assistant with the ability for users to give it either a British or Australian accent, which could make it a little more personal for some.
Smart Home

Knock, knock. Who's there? With a video doorbell, you'll never have to guess

When it comes to knowing who's at your door before you actually open it, there's nothing better than a video doorbell. Plus, you can "answer" the door even if you're not home. Here are some of our favorites.
Smart Home

The best air fryers deliver fried food with a fraction of the calories

What is this magical mechanism? It's an air fryer, and when used correctly, it can mimic the effects of frying while using just a little bit of oil. You still get that crispy, golden exterior and the fluffy center.
Smart Home

These wireless security cameras are a wire-free way to protect your home

Home security cameras can give you piece of mind, but if they have wires, are limited in where you can put them. We've rounded up the best battery-operated home security cameras to give you flexibility along with your security.
Smart Home

This A.I.-enabled tech brings cutting-edge automation to grocery stores

Takeoff Technologies is working to make grocery deliveries fast, accurate, and convenient using A.I.-enabled technology to augment robotic grocery orders that can be completed in minutes.
Smart Home

With a simple command, Alexa can arm all your security devices

Alexa customers can query status plus arm or disarm home security systems several companies. New Alexa Guard skills set your home to away mode, send alerts when alarms or sensors go off, and contact home security monitoring services.
Smart Home

Voice assistant-enabled Deebot N79S robot vacuum now deeply discounted

The Ecovacs Deebot N79 is more powerful and quieter than its predecessor and adds Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility. Ready to make cleaning easier than ever, this voice-enabled bot will vacuum your home on spoken command.
Smart Home

Facebook Portal and Portal+ video-calling devices gain new content and features

Facebook's Portal devices are video smart speakers with Alexa voice assistants built in that allow you to make calls. The 15-inch Portal+ model features a pivoting camera that follows you around the room as you speak.