Our Bodies’ Cells are Outnumbered by Bacteria

May 24, 2008 Published under Health, Science and Technology

It is not news that our bodies rely on bacteria to perform many functions, such as the bacteria in our digestive system that help deconstruct and process food. 

But what is fascinating according to a story in Genome Research reported by The New York Times, is the sheer volume of such relations, to the point that:

…bacteria in the human microbiome collectively possess at least 100 times as many genes as the mere 20,000 or so in the human genome.

Since humans depend on their microbiome for various essential services, including digestion, a person should really be considered a superorganism, microbiologists assert, consisting of his or her own cells and those of all the commensal bacteria. The bacterial cells also outnumber human cells by 10 to 1, meaning that if cells could vote, people would be a minority in their own body.

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