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You are your bugs

You are your bugs

The last few years has seen an explosion of interest in the bugs that live in or on our bodies. It is amazing that the average person has more than a trillion bugs as part of him or her. While medical science has long understood the existence of these bugs, and the symbiosis between man and microbe, it is only recently that the full ramification of this association is being discovered. In a recent article in The Economist, it was said that “a growing band of biologists, … see people not just as individuals, but also as ecosystems”.1

“Researchers have long known that bacteria reside on and within the human body, but traditional microbiology has typically focused on the study of individual species as isolated, culturable units. Recent advances in DNA sequencing technologies and other molecular techniques have allowed for more comprehensive examination of these microbes as communities that have evolved intimate relationships with their hosts over millions of years.”2

And scientists are now recognizing that the microbiome, the term used to describe an individual’s community of microorganisms, may play a critical role in human health and disease. And there are many varied diseases associated with a microbiome interface, including autism, depression, heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and obesity.3

Interestingly, with respect to one’s microbiome, everyone is unique. “. Therefore, two healthy people may have very different microbial communities but still be healthy.”4


What is promoting this understanding is a series of in depth molecular studies that are showing that “human body is a superorganism in which thousands of microbial genomes continually interact with the human genome”. 6

If you want to learn more about this fascinating new direction for the study of the relationship between the human microbiome and human health, I have attached a pdf of a great report from the American Academy of Microbiology. It has lots of answers and puts forward many questions.

If you have thoughts about you and “your bugs” leave a comment on this blog, or better yet, please drop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.


  1. http://www.economist.com/node/21560523
  1. http://academy.asm.org/index.php/faq-series/5122-humanmicrobiome
  1. http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/microbiome/disease/
  1. http://commonfund.nih.gov/hmp/programhighlights#biome
  1. http://www.advisoranalyst.com/glablog/2013/11/25/the-human-microbiome.html
  1. http://www.discoverymedicine.com/Amy-D-Proal/2014/05/22/inflammatory-disease-and-the-human-microbe


Mon, 07/10/2017 - 14:20

In reply to by assistant

Thanks Michael for pointing to Elaine’s work. We are lucky to have her at Queen’s. As you point out, her work has already garnered much deserved attention,



Victor Stollar

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 14:20

Dear Richard,
Perhaps then, all of us, not only the Queen, are entitled to use the “Royal We” when speaking of ourselves.
Victor Stollar, Medicine ’56

Victor Stollar

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