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Medical News & Perspectives
August 20, 2008

Microbiome Project Seeks to Understand Human Body’s Microscopic Residents

JAMA. 2008;300(7):777-778. doi:10.1001/jama.300.7.777

Boston—The human body is one of the richest habitats on Earth, with trillions of microorganisms inhabiting this mobile biome. Yet only a few dozen of the most notorious of these microbes are well known, their pathogenic exploits having outshadowed those of other microorganisms that coexist harmoniously with their human hosts.

The majority of commensal microorganisms that inhabit the gut, skin, oral cavity, and other niches within the human body may be veritable strangers, but they are becoming more familiar as researchers begin to explore the microbial ecosystems that constitute the collective realm called the human “microbiome.” To better understand the structure and function of these microbial communities and the roles they play in health and disease, the National Institutes of Health launched the Human Microbiome Project in December 2007.