What is the microbiome?

The human microbiome involves the microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) that live within or around the human body. Damage or changes or abberations of this “microbial organ” may affect human health and lead to disease. The microbiome, especially the microorganisms that inhabit the human gut, is seen as a key part in the initiation, regulation, and termination of all immune responses in the human body.

While we often hear about the microbiome related to the human body, the microbiome is really much more than that. It refers to all the miocroorganisms that live in an environment–whether the human body or beyond. These microorganisms create an ecosystem, or ecological community. “Micro” are the microorganisms and “biome” is the community.

The term “microbiota” is often used interchangeably with “microbiome.”

For more background information, see:

Mayo Clinic

National Institute of Health (U.S.)

For research, see:

Microbiome/microbiota: influences on disease and behavior (Science Bibliographies Online)

… and search Science Primary Literature (database).

Questions? Please let me know (engelk@grinnell.edu).

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