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Year in Review: Your body is mostly microbes

Microbiome results argue for new view of animals as superorganisms

2:00pm, December 20, 2013

MICROBE MECCA  About a thousand species of bacteria reside in the human gut, some of which are displayed in this hand-colored scanning electron micrograph.


We are not alone. Humans’ vast inner and outer spaces teem with a menagerie of microbes that stand poised to alter conceptions of what and who we are.

Traditionally, microbes have been viewed as insidious invaders that make people sick or as freeloaders in the human gut. That view is beginning to change. In 2013, scientists amassed substantial evidence that people and other animals form a unit with their resident bacteria, archaea, fungi and viruses — the collection of microbes known as the microbiome. In fact, only about 10 percent of a person’s cells are human; microbes make up the other 90 percent.

Many researchers point out that ultimately, every species is out for itself. Nevertheless several new studies argue in favor of considering animals

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