Roller Derby Players Share Germs

Team member and opponents exchange microbes by slamming into each others’ shoulders during the game.

Mar 14, 2013
Edyta Zielinska

The Richter City All Stars (in black) play Sydney's Assassins (in purple)WIKIMEDIA, KRISTINA D.C. HOEPPNERWhen researchers from the University of Oregon swabbed the upper arms of roller derby players from three teams before and after their matches, they found that team members shared the same microbe profiles before the match, but after, the microbes between opposing teams had mixed, perhaps unsurprisingly given the high-contact nature of the sport. 

Sequencing the 16S ribosomal RNA genes from the samples, the researchers found that teams shared about 27–28 percent of their skin microbiome, but afterwards, they shared about 30–32 percent. The results were published this week in PeerJ.

“"These teams came to the tournament from different places, and we were kind of shocked to find out that they had a unique team microbiome,” the study’s first author James Meadow told ScienceNOW. “This study highlights that our interactions with people around us do appear to change our microbiome.”