Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Your little friends

You are crawling with creatures, right now as you read this.

They are on your skin, in your hair, in your mouth, in your ears, up your nose, and in your guts, but don't freak out. Mostly they're friendly, helpful little fellas.

In fact, Dr. Barnett Kramer, director of the division of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute says that humans are made mostly of microbes, adding, “We may just serve as packaging.”

That may strike you as an exaggeration, but consider that 100 trillion bacteria live in or on your body. That's a lot.

Yes you, who showers every day, rolls on underarm deodorant, religiously washes your hands after using the toilet, rinses your vegetables, wipes the kitchen counter with antiseptic towels, and routinely uses a squirt of hand sanitizer after any contact with humans or animals or anything they may have touched --- You are a walking metropolis of invisible living organisms and, by and large, that's a good thing, according to the Human Microbiome Project, a five year study involving 200 scientists at 80 institutions.

More fun facts:
• Up to 1,000 strains of bacteria live on each of us, and each person’s collection of microbes, the microbiome, is different from the next person’s.

• Not only do bacteria help keep people healthy, but they are also thought to help explain why individuals react differently to various drugs, and why some are more susceptible to certain infectious diseases than others.

• Disease-causing bacteria lurk in everyone’s microbiome. But instead of making people ill, or even infectious, these disease-causing microbes simply live peacefully among their neighbors.

• The gut is not jam-packed with food, it is jam-packed with microbes. Half of your stool is not leftover food. It is microbial biomass.

• The adult body carries two to five pounds of bacteria.
For more, check this New York Times article.

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