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The ecosystem inside you

Your body harbors trillions of bacteria that have profound effects on your health, your weight, and even your mood

Don't bacteria make people sick?
Many of them do, and antibiotics that kill them have saved countless lives. But over the past decade, researchers have discovered that the human body hosts 100 trillion mostly benign bacteria, which help digest food, program the immune system, prevent infection, and even influence mood and behavior. The bacteria living on and in us make up our "microbiome," an ecosystem that plays a role, scientists believe, in many conditions that genes and environmental factors alone can't explain, including obesity, autism, depression, asthma, and even cancer. The discovery of the microbiome, said Michael Fischbach, a bioengineer at the University of California, San Francisco, has been "very much like finding an organ we didn't know we had."

Where is the microbiome?
Bacteria thrive throughout our bodies — in our mouths and lungs, on our skin and teeth, and especially in our guts. The Human Microbiome Project, a government-supported effort to map our bacterial ecosystems, has discovered that people harbor 10 bacterial cells for every human cell. more....

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