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Babies end up with a very different portfolio of skin and gut bacteria depending on how they are delivered. Those who are born naturally harbour a more diverse array of bacteria, which resemble those in their mother’s vagina, including several species that are important for digestion. Those who are delivered by C-section are colonised by a less diverse array of bacteria, including some like Staphylococcus that are picked up from the hospital environment... By changing baby’s first bacteria, C-sections could alter the make-up of their later communities, leading to long-term effects on health and nutrition.  (Discover


A team of international scientists led by Junjie Qin and Ruiqiang Li discovered that each of our bowels carries at least 160 bacterial species. Together, our collective guts have just under 3.3 million bacterial genes, more than 150 times as many as reside in our own genomes. They also showed that the gut microbiome of a healthy person looks very different to that of someone with a bowel condition like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.


In a thorough survey of our skin microbiome, Elizabeth Grice identified species from at least 205 different genera. Your forearm has the richest community with an average of 44 species, while your nostril, ears and inguinal crease (between leg and groin) are the most stable habitats. Grice also found at bacteria from a specific body part have more in common than those from a specific person. Your butt microbes have more in common with mine than they do with your elbow microbes.


Fat mice and humans have a less diverse milieu of gut bacteria, with a greater proportion of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes in their bowels. This ratio increases if we eat high-fat diets and falls if we eat low-fat diets. And if the gut bacteria from fat mice are transplanted into mice with no gut bacteria of their own, they can make the new hosts overeat and pile on the pounds. This research suggests that gut bacteria could be manipulating us for their own ends. Some species send out signals that make us hungrier, encourage us to eat more, and affect the way we store fat. And some of our immune genes help to moderate these signals.

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