This project began with the realization that the ecosystem of the human skin was often remarkably similar to the characteristic microbes in cheese. Bacteria responsible for the stinky odor of Limburger cheese are closely related to bacteria that inhabit the human feet. Swiss cheese’s characteristic holes and cheesy odor are produced by bacteria related to species found in the armpit. To explore the connection between our skin and our food, we produce cheeses by intentionally sampling these regions of the body and culturing skin bacteria in milk.
Each cheese is unique to the person and to the body part from which it was sampled, creating unique odors and cheese characteristics. As this project continues, we intend to study how organisms work together to produce our cheeses and to design special consortia of microbes collected in our samples to produce specially tailored cheeses.
For more information, you can read the overview of our methods and analysis of the cheeses here.