A well written article by Nicholas Wade of the New York Times titled "Bacteria Thrive in Inner Elbow; No Harm Done" reveals symbiotic relationships that exist between our bodies and the millions of microbe colonies in them.
Some microbiologists even believe that the human being should be considered a superorganism, consisting of its human cells and those of all the commensal bacteria, like all skin microbes.
According to the NIH "Microbes profoundly shape this planet and all life on it” and the “ability to study native microbial communities represents a fundamental shift in microbiology and is one whose implications can only be imagined."
New advances on DNA sequencing technologies have created a new field of research, called metagenomics, allowing comprehensive examination of microbial communities. Until recently researchers needed to grow massive amounts of bacteria to determine their characteristics.
Now they are being able to document how they help, or hinder human existence, how they are affected by drugs or by other microbes and what essential functions they perform in each of the living organisms that inhabit the Earth.
Nicholas writes: “The crook of your elbow is not just a plain patch of skin. It is a piece of highly coveted real estate, a special ecosystem, a bountiful home to no fewer than six tribes of bacteria. Even after you have washed the skin clean, there are still one million bacteria in every square centimeter." Click here to read the rest of his fun and insightful article.
More related links with information on this promising research:
- The National Human Genome Research Institute.
- Human Microbiome Project.
- A diversity profile of the human skin microbiota (PDF).