It’s been a big week for our microbiomes.
The first phase of an ambitious study to characterise all the bacteria, fungi, and other microbes that reside in our bodies has been completed, with the results published in a series of articles in Nature, PLoS One and Genome Biology.
It’s a significant undertaking as the majority of previous research has focused on only those bugs that can potentially cause disease. The current study hints at the enormous scope of a person’s microbial rainforest while highlighting emerging view that these bugs, both pathogenic and non-pathogenic, actively participate and contribute to our metabolism and are critical for our ongoing health and survival.
To give you a taste of the “complex combinations” of these microbial partners of ours, The New York Times has published this impressive ‘family tree’ illustrating their prevalence and abundance.
Explore The Human Microbiome
The human microbiome refers to all of the microbial organisms that reside in the body including bacteria, fungi, and archaea. Notably, the human body contains over 10 times more microbial cells than human cells.
To illustrate the diversity of these ‘body bugs’, Scientific American have profiled this impressive, interactive map of the key microorganisms commonly identified in the human body and their predominant location.
Interest in the human microbiome has increased in recent years, following reports that the type and number of microorganisms seem to play a role in the onset of several medical conditions including obesity, cancer, and diabetes.
An illustration of microbiome development in a baby’s stomach, from Carl Zimmer’s Atlas of the Human Ecosystem.
You can see how the primary gut bacteria change from milk-eaters to plant-eaters as the baby’s diet changes.
Carl Zimmer discovered that his belly button is home to 53 different types of bacteria. One of them usually lives in the ocean. Another one lives in the soil. In Japan.
So even though he’s never been to Japan, Japan has been to his belly button. A fascinating look at a very unique part of our microbiome.
(via Discover Magazine)