For the first time ever, scientists working on the federally-funded Human Microbiome Project have isolated over 100 trillion bacteria in the human body that have been deemed essential to healthy human function: they digest food, synthesize vitamins, and protect against bad, disease-causing bacteria, among other things. The massive project includes the research of 200 scientists, who tested the bacteria of 242 healthy people at 80 different institutions. The results of the project are groundbreaking – they are huge steps in the understanding of bacteria’s relation to human health.
Newer, faster gene sequencing methods have allowed researchers to get footprints of previously elusive bacteria living in places like the gut and vagina that are helpful to the human body. This new wealth of information changes our perception of the human body – it is now possible to see humans as vessels carrying around a massive assemblage of microbiomes. So far, the sheer amount of data collected has been overwhelming, but once it is sorted, we will be able to understand how the microbiome affects health and disease, which can lead to developments in the improvement of human health.