Human Microbiota: The Microorganisms that make us their Home

ISLAMABAD, June 30 (APP): What makes a human body? According to researchers, human cells tell but half the story. The other half involves the myriad of microorganisms that make up the microbiota “alien” environments all over our bodies that, as long as there is a healthy balance, help us thrive.

The human body contains trillions of specialized cells, tiny building blocks that come together to support the development and functioning of the body. But human cells are not the only “materials” that make up our bodies. In fact, we live in symbiosis with trillions of microorganisms, too.

Researchers have long debated the true ratio of human cells to microorganisms in the average body. Estimates have fluctuated, but the most recent study to consider the matter, which appeared in PLOS Biology in 2016. It suggests that we likely have about as many microorganisms in and on our bodies as we do human cells.

In addition to bacteria and viruses, these microorganisms include archaea, primitive organisms with no nucleus, and eukaryotic microorganisms, or eukarya, a type with a nucleus that protects its chromosomes. In the latter group are fungi and protists, tiny organisms at the “border” between a plant and a fungus.

The most talked-about environment for colonizing microorganisms, especially bacteria, is the human gut. Studies show that the human gastrointestinal tract houses a vast “collection of bacteria, archaea, and eukarya” that play important roles ingut homeostasis, helping maintain the health of the gastrointestinal system.

Research has also suggested that gut bacteria moderate the connectionbetween the gut and the brain through an interaction with the enteric nervous system and other mechanisms, which may be hormonal or immunological. The main bacterial phyla, or types, present in the gut are Firmicutesand Bacteroidetes, which make up 90% of the gut microbiota.

Others are Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Fusobacterua, andVerrucomicrobia. These include some familiar bacterial groups, or genera, from the Firmicutes phyla, such as Lactobacillus, which is known for its positive impact on health.

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