Cheese rinds could help to reveal how microbial communities form and species interact.
Microbial communities affect ecosystems and human health, but are difficult to study in the lab. To find microbial systems that can be easily manipulated, Rachel Dutton and her colleagues at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studied rind samples from more than 100 types of cheese, including Brie and Camembert.
They found that many of the bacterial and fungal species that grow on ageing cheese are easily cultured. The team used sequencing to identify key interactions between bacteria and fungi and to track the development of the microbial community on a cheese as it aged. Moreover, the researchers could reconstruct many of these interactions in vitro.
Studying cheese rinds could provide insight into other microbial communities, such as those found on skin, the authors say.