Microbiome – Built Environment project

Research Centre: Healthy High Density Cities Lab;

Project title: Microbiome – Built Environment project. 4

HKUrbanLabs research cluster: Healthy CitiesHD

Project team: Gianni Panagiotou (PI), David Baker (Co-I), Chris Webster (Co-I), Chinmoy Sarkar (Co-I), Seth Denizen (Co-I).

Project funding: Hong Kong University Seed Funding for Basic Research.


Two proof-of-concept pilot studies co-funded by Deans of Architecture and Science. These involve:

  • Relationships between microbiome of Hong Kong’s MTR and underlying urban connectivity. This links to a similar study underway in New York’s Subway and examines ecological patterns of species sampled from MTR hand-rails via indices of ecological dissimilarity and diversity and relates them to underlying urban connectivity.
  • The distribution of anti-biotic resistant pathogens (ABRP) will be assessed via their circulation through bank notes at key locations, especially hospitals within Hong Kong. The hypothesis for the study will be to examine the relationship between ecological distance between the microbiome communities at the chosen sites (as measured by Bray-Curtis dissimilarity index and also Shannon species diversity/heterogeneity index) and underlying geographical connectivity of the sites in urban space.
  • Anticipated outcomes: 2 papers to high impact journals forming the foundation for at least one more major research funding bid.

4Note: This is a HKUrban Lab – SCIENCE collaboration.

Enlarge Photo: Human – built – natural environment research pillars & synergy. Conceptual urban health niche model of risk clustering and risk pathways - Gene, micro biome, built environment and the corresponding individual health niche (adapted from the Health Niche model of Sarkar, Webster & Gallacher, 2014).
Conceptual model developed by Dr C. Sarkar. © Chinmoy Sarkar & Chris Webster
Enlarge Photo: Figure. Modelled street movement potential (sDNA betweenness weighted by population density, service density and network link length) at multiple urban scales and location of sampled hospitals and MTR stations. 
Models developed by Dr C. Sarkar. © Chinmoy Sarkar & Chris Webster