Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


10 000 germ species living on you

14 June 2012, 09:07

 Washington - They live on your skin, up your nose, in your gut - enough bacteria, fungi and other microbes that, together, could weigh a few kilograms.

Now scientists have mapped just which critters normally live in or on us and where, calculating that healthy people can share their bodies with more than 10 000 species of microbes.

Don't say "eeew" just yet. Many of these organisms work to keep humans healthy, and results reported on Wednesday from the US government's Human Microbiome Project define what's normal in this mysterious netherworld. The results have been published in a series of reports in the journals Nature and the Public Library of Science.

One surprise: It turns out that nearly everybody harbours low levels of some harmful types of bacteria, pathogens that are known for causing specific infections. But when a person is healthy - like the 242 US adults who volunteered to be tested for the project - those bugs 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 $173m 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 make-up varies by body part.

Scientists have long known that the human body coexists with trillions of germs, what they call the microbiome. But they didn't know which microbes lived where in healthy people, and what they actually do.

Some 200 scientists from 80 research institutions worked together for five years on this first-ever census to begin answering those questions.

- AP

Tags health

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...