Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Human Skin Harbors Completely Unknown Bacteria

It appears that the skin, the largest organ in our body, is a kind of zoo and some of the inhabitants are quite novel, according to a new study. Researchers found evidence for 182 species of bacteria in skin samples. Eight percent were unknown species that had never before been described.

The researchers analyzed the bacteria on the forearms of six healthy subjects; three men and three women. “This is essentially the first molecular study of the skin,” says Dr. Blaser. The skin has been, he says, terra incognita, an unknown world that he and his colleagues have set out to understand much like explorers.

This research is part of an emerging effort to study human microbial ecology. Dr. Blaser’s laboratory has previously examined the bacterial population in the stomach and the esophagus. “Many of the bacteria of the human body are still unknown,” he says. “We all live with bacteria all our lives and occasionally we smile, so they’re not that bad for us.”
I love this research on the bacteria that live with us. But I have to say I am surprised that they were able to find unknown species of bacteria growing on us. I just assumed that science already knew of all the species of bacteria that lived with us. And if we didn't I assumed there would be tons of labs looking into this rather than just 10.

It seems to me that that these bacteria could have a big impact on the health of their symbiotic partner (that being us). Or as the doc puts it:
The most numerous cells in our body are microbial—they outnumber our cells 10 to 1. The body has microbes native to the body, including the skin, and these populations change according to how we live, he says. “Ultimately what we want to do is compare disease and health,” says Dr. Blaser. Keeping bacterial populations in our body stable may be part of staying healthy, he says.
Yeah, I want to know what kind of zoo I should be keeping for optimal health.
The six individuals differed markedly in the overall composition of the bacterial populations on their skin. They only had four species of bacteria in common: Propionibacterium acnes, Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum, Streptococcus mitis, and Finegoldia AB109769.

Almost three-quarters, or 71.4%, of the total number of bacterial species were unique to individual subjects, suggesting that the skin surface is highly diversified in terms of the bacteria it harbors, according to the study.
That is amazing to me that each person could have their own individual types of bacteria. But, the study was only of 6 people, so I don't think you can draw that conclusion yet.

via Newswise via Al Fin

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