Just How Many Bacteria are On the Human Body?

A recently completed study by Dr. Julia Segre, a senior investigator for the National Human Genome Research Institute, and her colleagues has collected bacterial samples from a racially diverse gropu of 10 volunteers.  112,283 organisms were collected in all.  What they found was groundbreaking, if not for the only reason that such a study has never been done. 

What exactly did they find?  For one, there are over 1000 species of bacteria on the human epidermis.  And, waht is the most diverse area of the human body for bacteria species?  The study found that our forearm has that disctinction, with a medium of 44 species found on the forearms of those studied.

Why should you care?  Dr. Segre comments, “We don’t really know what causes skin diseases.”  Bacteria could be one explanation for diseases like eczema and psoriasis, but it is still too early to tell.  The NIH intends to continue this line of research and is embarking on a $115 million “Human Microbiom Project” to continue cateloging and understanding all the bacteria and other organisms that exist on the human body.

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