There are some new words or, rather, scientific terms, marched into our everyday vocabulary as of late. Have you head, read or used them already? They define residents of microbial communities: microbiome, metagenome, microbiota.
- Microbiota: The assemblage of microorganisms present in a defined environment.
- Metagenome: The collection of genomes and genes from the members of a microbiota.
Most of the microbes in the microbiome do not cause disease. In fact, humans rely on microbes to perform many important functions that we cannot perform ourselves. Microbes digest food to generate nutrients for host cells, synthesize vitamins, metabolize drugs, detoxify carcinogens, stimulate renewal of cells in the gut lining and activate and support the immune system. (The Human Microbiome Project: Extending the definition of what constitutes a human.)
Good news. But most isn’t all. Some can do you harm all on their own. Still others can sway healthy microbial diversity in your gut and make you sick.
For example, it has been shown that low microbial diversity in the gut is associated with obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease, whereas high microbial diversity in the vagina is often associated with bacterial vaginosis, the most common type of vaginal infection.
The surprising reason Americans might be obese, anxious and depressed — New research suggests the answer to a number of modern ailments may reside in our gut is an article cross-posted in Salon and AlterNet. Interesting reading, no kidding.
Among other interesting things it mentions that if you are suffering from asthma, obesity, anxiety, mood disorders or acne, you can greatly benefit from “fecal transplants” (and no, I’m not introducing a fresh Russian joke here).
You see, your gut could be deficient of micro-flora that other people shit out without knowing what a treasure comes out the other side. See Fecal Bacteriotherapy — Wikipedia is in the know most of the time. This subtly colored micro-creature here is Fecal bacteria at 10,000× magnification. Might come handy some day, may this day never come. I wouldn’t wish fecal transplant on my enemy… primarily because it might cure her of acne. I ain’t good person, I know… Something suspicious on the bactero-microbial level must be going on in my gut as we speak.
As a rule, I’m not overly impressed with “Scientists discover shocking new…” something or another articles published in non-scientific publications. Half of the time, such articles want to make you believe that something important have happened on the forefront of science and we finally got the answer, and about to learn the truth and verity that nature was in no hurry to uncover up until this very moment… It’s so easy to confuse correlation with causation.
I, Ecosystem could’ve been a much more profound name for this post… Better check my gut for the diversity of my microbiota.