Historically, humans have interacted with soils, which contain a rich source of microorganisms. Fruit and vegetable gardening is the primary interaction humans have with soil today. Animal research reveals that soil microorganisms can be transferred to the rodent intestine. However, studies on fecal and soil microbial changes associated with gardening in humans are lacking. The current case-controlled cohort study aimed to characterize the fecal and soil microbiota of gardening families (n = 10) and non-gardening (control) families (n = 9). Families included two adults and one child (5–18 years) for a total of 56 participants. All participants provided a fecal sample, soil sample, and diet history questionnaires before the gardening season (April) and during the peak of the gardening season (August). Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2015) scores and nutrient analysis were performed. Fecal and soil DNA were extracted and amplified. Sequence data were then processed and analyzed. Peak season gardening families tended to have greater fecal operational features, a greater Faith's Phylogenetic Diversity score, greater fiber intake, and higher abundances of fiber fermenting bacteria than peak control families. Soil endemic microbes were also shared with gardening participant’s fecal samples. This study revealed that the fecal microbiota of gardening families differs from non-gardening families, and that there are detectable changes in the fecal microbial community of gardeners and their family members over the course of the gardening season. Additional research is necessary to determine if changes induced by gardening on the gut microbiota contribute to human health.
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