The idea of bacteria creeping through your body might be less than appetizing. We often associate the presence of bacteria in our bodies (especially in our digestive system) with infections, viruses, and food poisonings. However, scientific findings have uncovered the fact that there are also many types of good bacteria that are essential to our health. This collection of good and bad bacteria within our bodies have also been discovered to be strikingly diverse from person to person.
The definition of the human microbiome is still somewhat ambiguous and disputed but is commonly known to be the vast ecosystem of microscopic organisms (microbes) living within us. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), we consist of 10-100 trillion microbiota, also known as microbial cells. These cells hold genes that determine cell behavior.
Scientists have become specifically interested in the gut (our stomach and intestines) as a location that holds a notably vast collection of microbes. Believe it or not, the large intestine houses good bacteria, such as probiotics, that fight the bad bacteria and keeps us healthy. The ratio of good bacteria to bad can change and partly depends on your immune system or diet choices. If good bacteria becomes low in numbers, risk of infection and virus development increases.
One of the fascinating aspects of our microbiomes is that everyone’s is distinctly unique. We, as humans, have a much different microbiome than other animals, but ours also differ from person to person. Even the collection of organisms in your mouth is different than the community of organisms in your gut.
Because each person’s microbiome is so individualized, researchers are recognizing that this information could be valuable for practical usage in medicine. A patient’s microbiome could be used similarly to a fingerprint, but instead of merely identifying the patient, medical professionals could gain a better understanding about what is going on within the patient’s body and be able to make more educated predictions about procedures and treatments needed.
As more and more scientific findings of this topic surface, it becomes increasingly more exciting to find out how this knowledge will help us solve many unanswered questions that have to do with anatomical behavior, virus prevention, and even evolution. Our microbiomes seem to be the mysterious key that could open many doors to the understanding of the human body.