Lifestyle & Belief

Bacteria strains, germs living on people number in the thousands, study says


A new study found that the human body carries thousands of strains of bacteria, germs.


Abid Katib

Scientists found thousands of strains of bacteria on the human body - a discovery that may change the treatment of certain diseases.

Researchers at 80 institutions spent five years sequencing genetic material of bacteria taken from the noses of about 250 healthy people, and found that humans have more germs than ever imagined, said the New York Times.

The research is said to complement the recent Human Genome Project in 2003 and aims at discovering the role of bacteria in the human body from infection to digestion, reported Businessweek.

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The nearly $200 million project, known as the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), found that every person carries more microbes than human cells by 10 to one.

"The human we see in the mirror is made up of more microbes than human," said study leader Lita Proctor of the National Institutes of Health, reported NPR.

"The definition of a human microbiome is all the microbial microbes that live in and on our bodies but also all the genes — all the metabolic capabilities they bring to supporting human health."

In fact, humans carry so much bacteria that they add several pounds of bodyweight.

It is well-established that human beings carry within them and on them millions of microbes but the number of strains has until now been a mystery.

The research may help scientists understand how and why bacteria sometimes turns against the body and makes people ill.

"We need to understand better what the normal microbiome is like and what happens to it when it changes to cause or influence disease," Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute told the Wall Street Journal.

The project was funded by the National Institutes of Health.