Reference Number: 404
Health: Gut Microbiome
Sharing of Bifidobacterium longum strains had recently been shown to occur among Japanese family members, a phenomenon that is not confined to mother-infant pairs. In the current study, we investigated if bathtub water is a possible vehicle for the exchange of strains as a consequence of a Japanese custom to share bathtub water by family members during bathing practices. A total of twenty-one subjects from five Japanese families, each consisting of parents with either 2 or 3 children, were enrolled in this study and the fecal microbiota of all participants was determined. Viable bifidobacterial strains were isolated from all bathtub water samples. A subsequent comparative genome analysis using ninety-eight strains indicated that certain strain-sets, which were isolated from feces and bathtub water, share near identical genome sequences, including CRISPR/Cas protospacers. By means of unweighted UniFrac distance analysis based on 16S rRNA gene analysis of 59 subjects from sixteen Japanese families, we showed that the fecal microbiota composition among family members that share bathtub water is significantly closer than that between family members that do not engage in this practice. Our results indicate that bathtub water represents a vehicle for the transmission of gut bacteria, and that the Japanese custom of sharing bathtub water contributes to the exchange of gut microbes, in particular bifidobacteria, among family members.