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Understanding the human microbiome.

The average person harbors roughly 10 times more microbial cells than human cells. Shortly after birth, all humans develop more microbial cells, which then aid the metabolism in human cells. This activity in turn aids the metabolism of the microbial cells. On the basis of this knowledge, researchers are gathering data to map "the second human genome" in an effort to identify the genes of our microbial counterparts. Researchers consider the human microbiome to be a cofactor in diseases ranging from obesity, to inflammatory bowel syndrome, and to cancers, psoriasis, asthma, autism, type 2 diabetes, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Already encompassing tens of thousands of human genes, the microbiome includes between 5 million and 8 million bacterial genes. The greatest variety of these genes can be found in the alimentary canal and the mouth; the least diverse variety can be found in the vagina. Different species tend to dominate certain areas of the body. Ethnic and racial background, body weight, and geographic location can affect the variety of microbial genes in any one person.

(Source: Nature, June 14, 2012.)
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Dec 22, 2011
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