Humans: Home to 100 trillion microbial cells
“Every time we touch an object or breathe, we make contact with millions of microscopic organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa and even algae that have colonized every surface on Earth and made a home inside our bodies,” says Dr. Mason. Experts estimate that every human holds a total of 100 trillion microbial cells, which likely outnumber the number of cells in the human body.
The microbiome has a far-reaching impact on life. On the one hand, it’s responsible for infectious diseases such as cholera or the avian flu. On the other hand, microorganisms act as a live shield to protect humans from pathogens, aid with digestion, process drugs, and promote overall health and well-being. Understanding the myriad of interactions is therefore considered one of the most exciting and dynamic new frontiers of life science. It promises to bolster public health defenses, develop new therapeutic applications and even improve disciplines such as forensics, city planning and architecture.