This is an amazing article! I heard the researcher on NPR a few years ago and the idea that we are 90% microbes and 10% human cells blew me away. Now they have published more studies and all the implications are coming out: antibiotics, animals fed antibiotics, too-clean lifestyles, triclosan in everything (hand soap and now in the water systems) and the implications in so many physical and mental health conditions. Click below for the whole article in the Washington Post and here for the Nature link.
Consider this: The average person’s body contains about 100 trillion cells, but only maybe one in 10 is human.
This, it turns out, is nature’s way: The human cells that form our skin, eyes, ears, brain and every other part of our bodies are far outnumbered by those from microbes, primarily bacteria but also viruses, fungi and a panoply of other microorganisms.
That thought might make a lot of people lunge for the hand sanitizer, at the least. But that predictable impulse may be exactly the wrong one. A growing body of evidence indicates that the microbial ecosystems that have long populated our guts, mouths, noses and every other nook and cranny play crucial roles in keeping us healthy.
Moreover, researchers are becoming more convinced that modern trends — diet, antibiotics, obsession with cleanliness, Caesarean delivery of babies — are disrupting this delicate balance, contributing to some of the most perplexing ailments, including asthma, allergies, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, cancer and perhaps even autism.
“In terms of potential for human health, I would place it with stem cells as one of the two most promising areas of research at the moment,” said Rob Knight of the University of Colorado. “We’re seeing an unprecedented rate of discovery. Everywhere we look, microbes seem to be involved.”