Human Microbiome Mapped | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 25 | p. 32 | Concentrates
Issue Date: June 18, 2012

Human Microbiome Mapped

Research consortium publishes list of bacteria and bacterial genes that reside in healthy human bodies
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Biological SCENE
Keywords: microbiome, gene sequencing, bacterial diversity, human microbiome project

Some 200 researchers from about 80 universities have published a catalog of the bacteria residing on and in the healthy human body, the most extensive listing of its kind (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature11234 and 10.1038/nature11209). It has long been known that people are superorganisms comprising both their own genetic material and that of the trillions of microorganisms that call the human body home. NIH launched the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) Consortium in 2007 to map those bacterial species. These new reports are the first released by the group. HMP scientists sampled as many as 18 sites on the bodies of approximately 240 individuals in the U.S. Using a variety of gene-sequencing techniques to identify the bacteria collected, the researchers have determined that humans host more than 10,000 microbial species. These organisms contribute to the human body some 8 million genes that code for proteins involved in activities such as digestion. The mapping data give scientists a whole new way of looking at human health, says Phillip I. Tarr, a pathobiologist at Washington University in St. Louis. Instead of the traditional “one germ causes one disease” model, he adds, researchers can now think about treating illness by considering the entire bacterial ecosystem.

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