PreMiEr Testbeds

The PreMiEr testbeds present a wide variety of opportunities for researchers to test their hypotheses, collect samples, and deploy technologies for engineering built environment microbiomes and determining interactions with human-associated microbiomes.  The testbeds were carefully selected to represent a wide range of researcher control, pathogen burden, and representation of real-world conditions.

Environmental Chambers

Constructed chambers in the labs of Drs. Barbara Turpin and Joe Brown at UNC-CH provide the simplest testbed for PreMiEr researchers.  The conditions within these systems can be tightly controlled and instruments can directly measure a number of variables inside the chamber. This testbed is optimal for exploring the viability and proliferation of microbes on surfaces or delivered via certain methods (e.g., aerosols), but is poorly representative of a more complex “real-world” built environment.

Artificial Gut

The interaction of built environment microbiomes with human microbiomes can be tested in PreMiEr’s artificial gut testbed, located in the laboratory of Dr. Lawrence David at Duke University. This complex and controlled system inoculated with actual fecal material can simulate the human gut environment, allowing researchers to examine how microbes and metabolites identified by PreMiEr research thrusts might impact the human microbiome in a long-term, controlled, reproducible system.

Duke University Smart Home

The Duke Smart Home is a living laboratory and active dormitory, housing up to 10 students each academic year on the Duke University campus. This environmentally-friendly, sustainable structure will also serve as a residential testbed for PreMiEr researchers with a stable cohort of known inhabitants.


Some of the PreMiEr testbeds most representative of the “real world” are found within the hospitals of Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Renowned for their excellent medical care, these buildings will also serve PreMiEr as study sites that carry both a high level of control but also a potentially localized high pathogen burden.  These testbeds will be especially important for analyzing the spread of antimicrobial resistance and evaluating methods of preventing transmission of pathogens within a built environment.

Bolivian Built Environments

The final of PreMiEr’s testbeds can be found internationally in the country of Bolivia. Rural and urban buildings and homes in this country often look and operate quite differently than those in the United States with different drivers for microbial diversity. As such, this testbed presents an opportunity to study domestic built environments with relatively low environmental control and a potentially higher pathogen burden than structures typically found local to the participating research universities. Such contrast may help inform general conclusions drawn about domestic microbiomes or suggest improvements that might be made for residents of low or middle income countries.