Of Men and Microbe
Classic biology teaching had been that we are outnumbered on the cell for cell basis 10:1 by bacteria. Certainly bacteria, especially the microbiome of the gastrointestinal system, are an important component of the body needed for homeostatic maintenance of health and prevention of disease. However a recent article published in the journal Cell (Sender et al. 2016) presented the finding that the ratio is much closer to 1:1. In the words of the authors:
“The B/H (bacterial to human) ratio is actually close enough to one, so that each defecation event…may flip the ratio to favor human cells over bacteria.”
Interesting in it’s own right, this also demonstrates the importance of revisting “old”, accepted principles as new technology and techniques come about. The beauty of science is a progression and building of knowledge in which even old ideas and concepts can be challenged for a better understanding of truth.
Sender, R., Fuchs, S. and Milo, R. Are We Really Vastly Outnumbered? Revisiting the Ratio of Bacterial to Host Cells in Humans. Cell 164, 337-340.