6 Pounds of Bacteria?

Posted by on Jun 14, 2012 | 0 comments

6 Pounds of Bacteria?

According to a study done by Dr. Phillip Tarr of Washington University at St. Louis the average 200 lb human body carries around with it about 6 lbs of bacteria.

Let me just say this for everyone out there reading this:

EWWWWW

And what possesses someone to study this? According to this study our body has 10 bacterial cells for every human cell. Again, EWWWWWW. These bacteria live in our noses, on our skin, in our intestines and probably everywhere else.

“This is a whole new way of looking at human biology and human disease, and it’s awe-inspiring,” said Dr. Phillip Tarr of Washington University at St. Louis, one of the lead researchers in the $173 million project, funded by the National Institutes of Health. “These bacteria are not passengers,” Tarr stressed. “They are metabolically active. As a community, we now have to reckon with them like we have to reckon with the ecosystem in a forest or a body of water.”

I don’t know where he got his master of public health, or if he even has one, but he sounds like a smart enough guy (And yet, if I were him I would get home each night and shower for a good 20 minutes). According to Tarr these bacteria work with our DNA to turn on and off disease.

There are about 22,000 human genes. But the microbes add to our bodies the power of many, many more — about 8 million genes, the new project estimated. Those bacterial genes produce substances that perform specific jobs, some of which play critical roles in the health and development of their human hosts, said Dr. Bruce Birren of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, another of the project’s investigators. Genes from gut bacteria, for example, lead to digestion of certain proteins and fats. They also produce certain beneficial compounds, like inflammation-fighting chemicals.

If you can get past the EWWWW factor this is actually pretty cool. I’m not looking into any mph programs, I like being a writer and am pretty sure biology is even more difficult than it was when I was in college, still, this guy and all the others like him are making great strides in unraveling our DNA, genes and how they cause and cure disease. I’m just glad I don’t have to get any samples for them. Additionally, when I step on the scale I can mentally subtract 6 whole pounds!

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