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Human Microbial Diversity

December 2, 2009

Every person may have a very different mix of microbes living inside them.


Your bacterial profile. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

We all have trillions of benign microbes living on or in us. But scientists are just starting to realize how different these personal microbe communities are. The latest comes from University of Colorado at Boulder microbial ecologist Rob Knight and his colleagues. They analyzed the microbial populations of eighteen anatomical sites on nine different people. It was already known that different sites on the same person harbor different microbes.

ROB KNIGHT (University of Colorado at Boulder):
What was really surprising is when you control for all of those differences, essentially every site on the body is highly variable between different people.

About 80 to 90 percent variable, in fact. They even found that one person’s skin bacteria wouldn’t grow on another person. Knight says our unique microbial profile may be an overlooked influence on our health. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.