The study of the human microbiome is a fast emerging field of scientific endeavor, driven by the idea that we need to rethink our relationship to the 100 trillion microbes that reside in the human body. While we have been blasting these bacteria with antibiotics for many years, closer investigation has shown us the incredible diversity of the human microbiome. Therefore, we would be wise to learn how to make the good bacteria flourish, as the friendly microbes can help us kill off the bad guys.
Scientists are calling this approach “medical ecology.” An important development in this field was a recent survey of the human microbiome published by the Human Microbiome Project, an effort by over 200 scientists to “characterize the microbial communities found at several different sites on the human body, including nasal passages, oral cavities, skin, gastrointestinal tract, and urogenital tract, and to analyze the role of these microbes in human health and disease.” Applications for this research could also include treating obesity and diabetes.
In today’s lesson, Mary Roach explores how these friendly microbes keep you healthy.