Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Body as Bacterial Landlord

Utterly fascinating article.

The human body teems with so many microbes that they outnumber our own cells ten to one. Vast schools of bacteria are in us and around us, like fish nuzzling a coral reef. "They are not simply along for the ride," says Stanford University microbiologist David Relman. "They are interacting with us."

10-1 ratio. Interesting.

As many as 500 species of bacteria may inhabit our guts, like H.pylori. Maybe 500 or so other species make themselves at home in our mouth, where each tooth has its own unique bacterial colony, Dr. Relman recently determined. No one knows how many species we contain in all. This past August, researchers at Kings College London identified yet another new species of oral bacteria between the tongue and cheek.

Just identified? Amazing.

"By changing who is living in our guts, we can prevent Type 1 diabetes," Dr. Chervonsky says.

The diversity is more than anyone expected. Dr. Segre, who specializes in the study of the skin, found one set of microbial communities thriving in the bend of the typical elbow and an entirely different set of colonies on the average forearm. In all, she identified 113 different kinds of bacteria living in concentrations of about 10,000 per square centimeter on the surface and, just beneath the skin, in densities of one million microbes per square centimeter, she reported last May.

Bacterial colonies growing in a petrie dish.


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