Geography of Microbiomes

 

Studies of Human Microbiome Yield New Insights - NYTimes.com

Studies of Human Microbiome Yield New Insights – NYTimes.com.

The biologist in me had to post this:

For a century, doctors have waged war against bacteria, using antibiotics as their weapons. But that relationship is changing as scientists become more familiar with the 100 trillion microbes that call us home — collectively known as the microbiome.

Doctors and researchers are finally examining the plethora of microbial life that exists in and on the human body, including bacteria, virus, and fungi.  In fact, they are beginning to use the body’s own organisms to fight invaders, restore health, and aid in weight loss, to name a few things these microorganisms can do.

…by nurturing the invisible ecosystem in and on our bodies, doctors may be able to find other ways to fight infectious diseases, and with less harmful side effects. Tending the microbiome may also help in the treatment of disorders that may not seem to have anything to do with bacteria, including obesity and diabetes.

Although not mentioned in the article, a recent study pointed to the increased incidence of obesity in babies born by Caesarean.  Doctors speculated it might be due to the lack of exposure to microbes during birth.  This NYT article  details the inoculation of babies born naturally

During delivery, a baby will be coated by Lactobacillus johnsonii and ingest some of it. Dr. Aagaard-Tillery suggests that this inoculation prepares the infant to digest breast milk.

Reducing the ‘good’ bacteria in the microbiome can have potentially devastating effects:

Children who take high levels of antibiotics may be at greater risk of developing allergies and asthma later on, many researchers have suggested.

Antibacterial soap can end up being a bad thing:

Skin bacteria are also essential, Dr. Segre said. “One of the most important functions of the skin is to serve as a barrier,” she said. Bacteria feed on the waxy secretions of skin cells, and then produce a moisturizing film that keeps our skin supple and prevents cracks — thus keeping out invading pathogens.

The science of microbiomes is in its infancy, but researchers are finally starting to pay attention, although

it may take a while to figure out how to manipulate the microbiome to make people healthy.

 

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