Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Q: Are We Not Men? A: Well, about 10%

Scientists recently completed a DNA-based “census survey” of who’s living on our skin. No surprise, but we host a lot of bacteria. What is surprising is who they are: an estimated 250 species live on us, 8% are species previously unknown.

The exact mix will vary by individual, but pretty much everyone is hosting the 4 major players: Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Propionibacteria and Corynebacteria -- which together are about 54% of the skin mix.

And Corynebacteria would be counted even more--but they were uncooperative when the census-takers knocked on their tiny, little doors.

In addition to the many permanent microbes, we’ve got a multitude of transient bacteria on the skin. So not only are homeless microbes begging for change and building filthy trashcan fires, they’re doing it on our genitals. And scientists, for some reason, want us to know this.

And that’s just scratching the surface. The real story is what’s inside us…estimates are that bacteria started living inside animals a billion years ago, and have evolved inside us, with us. It’s a wet, warm environment for them and they do some useful things for us like breaking down food, cleaning up debris and fighting off harmful bacteria.

The researchers noted that microbes in the human body actually outnumber human cells 10-to-1. Our microbes are actually, in essence, a part of our body.

In essence what we think of as “us” is not really 100% human after all. That's depressing. Thanks for nothing, Science.

[link via]

Only tangentially related…15 awesome microorganism photos and one smoking hot micro-centerfold. (Miss February - Cynoglossum officinale)

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