Tracking the Ecosystem Within Us

Posted on June 25, 2007  Comments (6)

Gut Check: Tracking the Ecosystem Within Us

For more than 100 years, scientists have known that humans carry a rich ecosystem within their intestines. An astonishing number and variety of microbes, including as many as 400 species of bacteria, help humans digest food, mitigate disease, regulate fat storage, and even promote the formation of blood vessels. By applying sophisticated genetic analysis to samples of a year’s worth baby poop, Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have now developed a detailed picture of how these bacteria come and go in the intestinal tract during a child’s first year of life.

Before birth, the human intestinal tract is sterile, but babies immediately begin to acquire the microbial denizens of the gut from their environment — the birth canal, mothers’ breast, and even the touch of a sibling or parent. Within days, a thriving microbial community is established and by adulthood, the human body typically has as many as ten times more microbial cells than human cells.

The results, said Palmer, were striking: the group found that the intestinal microbial communities varied widely from baby to baby – both in terms of which microbes were present and in how that composition changed over time. That finding, she said, is important because it helps broaden the definition of healthy microbial colonization in a baby.

Another intriguing observation, Palmer noted, was a tendency for sudden shifts in the composition of the infants’ intestinal microbial communities over time as different species of bacteria ebbed and flowed.

I find this area and this study fascinating. I’m not exactly sure why this study and the incredibly significant positive bacteria for human life news doesn’t get more notice. Oh well I guess there are not cool pictures of robots or scary stories of potential threats to those reading which makes the news less interesting to some. Still I find this stuff amazing: Energy Efficiency of DigestionBeneficial BacteriaSkin BacteriaHacking Your Body’s Bacteria for Better HealthWhere Bacteria Get Their Genes

6 Responses to “Tracking the Ecosystem Within Us”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » People Have More Bacterial Cells than Human Cells
    December 3rd, 2007 @ 9:30 am

    “there are estimated to be more than 500 species living at any one time in an adult intestine, the majority belong to two phyla…”

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    October 20th, 2008 @ 8:29 am

    […] like other animals, have a large and varied population of beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines. The bacteria break up large molecules that the host cannot digest. The […]

  3. Curious Cat Science Blog » Foreign Cells Outnumber Human Cells in Our Bodies
    November 6th, 2008 @ 9:01 pm

    The understanding of the complex interaction is something I came to through reading on the overuse of antibiotics. And the more I read the more interesting it gets…

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    January 17th, 2012 @ 9:01 am

    Staphylococcal food poisoning is a gastrointestinal illness. It is caused by eating foods contaminated with toxins produced by Staphylococcus aureus…

  5. Viruses Eating Bacteria » Curious Cat Science Blog
    March 2nd, 2012 @ 9:30 am

    “According to estimates put forth by Suttle, phages destroy up to 40 percent of the bacteria in Earth’s oceans each day…”

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    April 5th, 2021 @ 11:04 pm

    […] Related: Great Webcast Explaining the Digestive Systems – Energy Efficiency of Digestion – Tracking the Ecosystem Within Us […]

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