Friday, December 14, 2012

Human body hosts about 10,000 germ species

Scientists of the Human Microbiome Project had calculated that healthy people share their bodies with with as much as 10,000 species of microbes.

This is old news, I know, but perhaps, still worth reposting.  So, read on.

Virtually everybody harbors low levels of some harmful types of bacteria, pathogens that are known for causing specific infections. But when a person is healthy those bugs simply quietly coexist with benign or helpful microbes, perhaps kept in check by them.

The next step is to explore what doctors really want to know: Why do the bad bugs harm some people and not others? What changes a person's microbial zoo that puts them at risk for diseases ranging from infections to irritable bowel syndrome to psoriasis?

Already the findings are reshaping scientists' views of how people stay healthy, or not.

"This is a whole new way of looking at human biology and human disease, and it's awe-inspiring," said Dr. Phillip Tarr of Washington University at St. Louis, one of the lead researchers in the $173 million project, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

"These bacteria are not passengers," Tarr stressed. "They are metabolically active. As a community, we now have to reckon with them like we have to reckon with the ecosystem in a forest or a body of water."

And like environmental ecosystems, your microbial makeup varies widely by body part. Your skin could be like a rainforest, your intestines teeming with different species like an ocean.

Some 200 scientists from nearly 80 research institutions worked together for five years on this first-ever census to begin answering those questions by unraveling the DNA of these microbes, with some of the same methods used to decode human genetics. The results have been published in a series of reports in the journals Nature and the Public Library of Science.

Read more here.

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