New studies involving Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers have helped to identify and analyze the vast human “microbiome,” the more than 5 million microbial genes in the body. Scientists estimate that each person carries about 100 times as many microbial genes as human genes, and they want to learn more about the role that microbes — organisms like bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in the stomach, in the mouth, on the skin, or elsewhere — play in normal bodily functions, like development or immunity, as well as in disease. Several HSPH studies were conducted as part of the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), a multidisciplinary effort involving nearly 250 members from nearly 80 research institutions that is publishing five years of research in several journals simultaneously. As a result of this effort, HMP consortium researchers calculate that there are more than 10,000 microbial species that live in humans. Previously, only a...
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