Map by Lauren Nichols and Neil McCoy

How to find your sample

If you’re having a hard time locating your sample on the map, try using the search widget located at the top right.

  • Click the “SEARCH IN 583 CATEGORIES” link in the panel
  • Enter your Participant Sample ID number
  • Click the checkbox next to your sample number (you may need to scroll through columns to locate your number)
  • Click “APPLY” (top right)
  • Only your location point will appear on the map (note: you can select multiple points in the search widget if you like)

The Showerhead Microbiome Project

Your showerhead is personal. It is the conduit through which water falls on you to keep you clean. It is also full of life. Showerheads can, in other words, clean you and dirty you at the same time.

This map includes the results from the identification of the microbes in showerheads from across the United States. We have almost finished the samples from Europe as well.

Each point on the map is near a sampled showerhead. The points don’t exactly match the location of the homes so as to preserve the anonymity of the homeowner. The results displayed by clicking on each point on the map include the presence and relative abundance of each of the top 25 most common genera over all. What we have so far is a list of names, the names of the basic kinds of microbes found in each showerhead. We know the general names of the microbes (their generic names), but not the names of their species or strains. This is important caveat because very often the same genus of bacteria includes both incredibly useful species and some dangerous ones. The genus Staphylococcus, for instance, includes both of the pathogen MRSA and of the most common beneficial skin microbe. The level of identification we have so far can’t distinguish these two forms. The problem is akin to learning that you have a species of the family Felidae in your basement but not knowing whether it is a house cat or a leopard.

As we resolve the more detailed names of species and strains we will learn more. But this further resolution may take years. Stay tuned.

* Please remember this no matter what information you obtain from googling these creatures: Remember that we live in a world surrounded by microbes. We have focused here on showerheads. There are microbes on everything in your house. To be alive is to be, constantly, bathed in life. We live in harmony with most of the microbes around us most of the time. As you google these creatures, remember that just having them in your showerhead does not necessarily mean it in anyway impacts your health negatively. We think most of these species are likely to be beneficial, either to you or to society. And we can’t tell yet, based on the analyses we have done, which of these species are the good ones and which the bad, nor will you be able to with the powers of google. What is more, a species that is absolutely necessary for your survival in one moment is potentially dangerous the next. And regardless of what lives in your showerhead the one thing we can say for sure is that it is more likely to be beneficial (and less likely to be dangerous) than the microbe found on your neighbor, kids, or dog. So enjoy a good shower and stay away from the neighbor.