Five years research has explored the microbes living on and in the healthy humans


Scientists have developed the first genetic reference map of nearly all of the microbes present in the healthy humans.

This research has been done by a group of scientists organized by National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the findings have been published simultaneously in 16 different papers on Wednesday with two papers in the journal Nature and 14 papers in the Public Library of Science (PLoS). The work is done after five years of collaboration of about 200 members from nearly 80 different institutions globally with $173 million funding by NIH.

Sampling of microbes from five sites[hana-code-insert name=’StumbleUpon’ /][hana-code-insert name=’Reddit’ /]This research is helpful in finding how the microbes in the human body, collectively known as “human microbiome”, shape the health of the body. Scientists with the Human Microbiome Project Consortium worked on about 250 healthy American volunteers and analyzed about 5,000 samples taken from swabs and scrapings taken from areas ranging from nasal and oral passages to the skin, the vagina and feces.

Scientists have found that the number and variety of microbes differed among different individuals. Moreover, the temperature and acidity along with work done by the human cells in the various habitats also affect the living microbes at a particular place in the body.

For example, there are 4,000 species of bacteria in the intestine to help in digestion and production of vitamins and anti-inflammatory compounds while there are only 300 species in the vagina, where the diversity decreases in the time of pregnancy to give a healthy passage for the infant. Scientists have found more than 10,000 different species in healthy humans with the help of DNA sequencing technology.

Scientists have found that although the microbial inhabitants of body habitats are similar from person to person but the main differences are due to the individual’s habitats.

“There are more similarities between creatures that survive in two different deserts than between [those that live in] a desert or a rain forest,” said Harvard computational biologist Curtis Huttenhower, lead co-author of a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. “The different regions of your body are these bugs’ deserts and rain forests.”

“It turns out that time is as important to explain microbial variation as is space,” said David Relman, Stanford University researcher, who was not involved in the project. “Time is especially important when you are developing as a child or when you have experienced a major disturbing force” to your health.

Bacteria are present in and on the human body in greater quantity than viruses and fungi. In fact, bacteria out number human cells 10 to 1.

All this work was a heavy task, so that the scientists needed a separate group to manage all of the research work and members.

“There were groups generating data, performing microbiology, thinking about computation, managing all of the scientists and reaching out to the communities,” Huttenhower said. “It takes a village to finish science these days.”

Via: The Washington Post

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