Did you know that bacteria living in our bodies outnumber human cells 10 to 1?
10 to 1! That means, for each human cell in your body, there are ten microorganisms, which may include bacteria, fungi and archaea. I don't even know what archaea are--and I've read the definition! The only part I understood was that they produce methane, which stinks, both literally and metaphorically. In fact, the number of different bacteria species living on your skin alone could approach five hundred. And that's not just your skin we're talking about, it's mine too! And fungi! Do we have mushrooms growing out of our ears, or what?
And the news gets worse: each of us hosts thousands of types of bacteria with different body sites that have their own distinctive communities. For example, your belly button (an area I assume you never think about, unless you are one to contemplate your navel) can host any number of 1,400 strains of bacteria that call it home.
So, as it turns out, you can live in a gated community, but you can't be one. And you have no say in the matter: you are a microbiome, an aggregate of microorganisms that live in your skin, your eyes, your mouth, your gut, and other places which I can't talk about in polite society. Before you completely freak out, let me tell you that some of these organisms are beneficial, like gut bacteria that aid in digestion, and others that help maintain our health in different ways. The most unsettling news is that we have no idea what the majority of them do. But, have no fear, we (well, not me, of course, it's the 200 researchers in the Human Microbiome Project) are studying them in an effort to figure out what the little buggers are up to.
Of course, since they outnumber us 10 to 1, it seems that we ARE the little buggers!