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Bacteria flourish in favorite ecosystems on the human body

Study offers most comprehensive inventory yet of the human microbiome and a basis for understanding how those microbes affect health

By
6:08pm, November 5, 2009

Like fussy first-time homebuyers, microbes in and on the human body choose their digs according to three strict rules: location, location, location. If the palm of the hand is a bustling metropolitan city crammed with hundreds of species, the ear canal is central Wyoming. 

This variety is revealed by the most comprehensive inventory yet of the body’s microbial community. Reported online November 5 in Science, the research provides one of the most thorough whole-body maps to date of the estimated 100 trillion individual microbes the body harbors inside and out. 

Assessing the body’s different microbial habitats will help researchers understand the intimate link between the human body and the microbiome — the bacteria, fungi and viruses that live in and on the body. These microbes — estimated to outnumber human cells by at least a factor of 10 — usually coexist with the human body in peaceful harmony, playing i
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