The human genome is made up of about 23,000 genes. That’s a fairly impressive figure. Until you consider this: the number of non-human genes each of us carries around — from the bacteria, viruses and other pathogens living in and on us — totals 8 million.
Most of the cells in the human body aren’t even human. Indeed, bacterial cells outnumber human cells 10 to 1. Which is why the exploration of the human microbiome — the collective population of all the non-human cells and genes that inhabit us — is currently one of the fastest rising fields of medical research.
What scientists are discovering is that these microbes are not just freeloaders or invaders. Rather, they’re crucial facilitators of many of our basic bodily functions: from digesting food and producing vitamins to fending off harmful infection and recovering from illness. They not only keep people healthy, but they may…
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