The human microbiome: Me, myself, us
WHAT’S a man? Or, indeed, a woman? Biologically, the answer might seem obvious. A human being is an individual who has grown from a fertilised egg which contained genes from both father and mother. A growing band of biologists, however, think this definition incomplete. They see people not just as individuals, but also as ecosystems. A healthy adult human harbours some 100 trillion bacteria in his gut alone. And it really is a system, for evolution has aligned the interests of host and bugs. That bacteria can cause disease is no revelation. A bug’s life One way to think of the microbiome is as an additional human organ, albeit a rather peculiar one. The microbiome, too, is organised. Specialised; but not monotonous. That detail is significant. This early nutritional role, moreover, is magnified throughout life. The fat of the land This role in nutrition points to one way in which an off-kilter microbiome can affect its host: what feeds a body can also overfeed or underfeed it.
Related: Complex Systems
• The Gut Microbiome
• AE Gut Quot