The Human Microbiome
Microbes interact in communities, and they respond to their surroundings. Just like organisms in Earth’s ecosystems, our microbial populations shift when their environment changes.
We acquire our microbiomes from the environment at birth. As we grow up, our microbial profiles change along with us.
Our genome is fixed for life, but our microbiome changes over time. Learn how our experiences influence the microbiome.
Disrupting our microbial ecosystems can cause disease, and some diseases disrupt our microbial ecosystems. Manipulating these interactions may help doctors understand and manage diseases.
Humans have spent the last 80 years trying to clean “germs” from our bodies and our homes. Antibiotics have saved countless lives—but with untended consequences to our microbiomes that we are only beginning to understand.
Discover how different types of antibiotics fight infection and how they influence your resident microbes.
In this game, your mission is to destroy an infectious colony of bacteria. But watch out—the bacteria have a trick up their sleeves.
Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, making infections harder to cure. Learn more about antibiotic resistance and its medical challenges.
A collection or community of microbes.
Some use “microbiome” to mean all the microbes in a community. We and others use it to mean the full collection of genes of all the microbes in a community. The human microbiome (all of our microbes’ genes) can be considered a counterpart to the human genome (all of our genes). The genes in our microbiome outnumber the genes in our genome by about 100 to 1.
Meet the Microbiome
Microbes are everywhere: in the soil, in the water, and even in our bodies. That's right! Microbes cover every surface of our bodies, both inside and out. These microscopic life forms represent thousands of species, and they outnumber our own cells by about 10 to 1.
Some scientists view our resident microbes as a newly discovered and largely unexplored organ, with many functions that are essential for life. Explore to learn more about the human microbiome.
We aren’t just single individuals walking the planet: we’re walking ecosystems. And like our planet, the human body has many different environments, each with a unique set of biotic and abiotic factors.
A few microbes cause disease, but most do not. In fact, many are essential for good health.
DNA-sequencing tools help us see the microbiome more clearly than we could before, giving us new respect for all it does for us.
Plants and animals have microbiomes too! Explore these examples to learn about the role of microbes in several of Earth’s ecosystems.