Bacteria Cells On Skin Diverse As Earth : Shots - Health News How diverse is the bacteria on your skin? In different spots, it's as diverse as the ocean, the jungle, and the desert, scientists say.
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Bacteria Cells On Skin Diverse As Earth

The diverse bacteria found in 20 different places on the skin may deepen our understanding of disease /NHGRI hide caption

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Speaking of cells, did you know just how much diversity there is in the bacterial cells that live on our skin, or why you should care?

NPR's Richard Harris reports on a new article published in the journal Science today:

The [skin] bacteria are part of genuine ecosystems -- akin to life on the savannah, or the ocean, or the rich life of a tropical rain forest.

The National Human Genome Research Institute sampled the bacterial wildlife from 20 spots on the bodies of 10 volunteers.

National Geographic notes, "armpits are 'rain forests' for bacteria."

NPR's Harris points out that this previously unknown diversity information is potentially useful when it comes to understanding skin health and developing treatments for disease.


And skin is just the start. The National Institutes of Health is now embarking on a follow-on to the human genome project, called the Human Microbiome Project. Julia Segre [of the National Human Genome Research Institute] says we won't really understand human biology without a deeper appreciation for our fellow travelers.

"The human genome is really an amalgamation of the human cells and the bacterial cells," she says, "and it's time for us to turn attention to the other organisms that live together with our human cells."