An interdisciplinary team of researchers, restorers and bioinformaticians from Italy and Austria have discovered a hidden world of bacteria, fungi and human DNA present in seven drawings by Leonardo da Vinci.

The research, published this week in Frontiers in Microbiology, shows another level of complexity in the drawings of the Italian genius that could help to build a “catalog” of microbiomes for artworks, as each of the pieces featured a unique enough collection of microbes.

In this case, the microbiomes in Da Vinci’s drawings had enough key elements in common that helped researchers detect forgeries, or even other authentic drawings that had been kept under different conditions over the centuries.

To learn in detail about the different biological materials contained in these seven drawings, the researchers used a new tool called Nanopore, a genetic sequencing method that rapidly breaks down and analyzes genetic material.

According to the study authors it’s a statement, the results have shown “a surprising dominance of bacteria over fungi“, since” until now it was thought that fungi were a dominant community in paper art and tended to be the main focus of microbial analysis due to their potential for biodeterioration. “

Another of the observations made by the researchers is “the presence of a lot of human DNAHowever, the authors of the study have pointed out that most likely it comes from all the people who have manipulated these drawings since the 15th century.

“Collectively, the insects, restorers, and geographic location seem to have left an invisible trail in the drawings, although it is difficult to tell if any of these contaminants originated at the time in which Leonardo da Vinci was sketching his drawings “, they have pointed out.