More than half your body is NOT HUMAN say scientists searching for new ways of tackling disease – The Sun
Human cells make up just 43 per cent of our total cell count, while the rest are microscopic tenants that are essential for our wellbeing.
The hidden half of our body is called our microbiome, and experts studying it could unlock new ways of tackling diseases, from allergy to Parkinson's.
Microscopic creatures, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and archaea, cover your entire body.
"They are essential to your health," says Prof Ruth Ley, the director of the department of microbiome science at the Max Planck Institute, "your body isn't just you".
The highest concentration of this microscopic life lives in our oxygen-deprived bowls.
Prof Rob Knight, from University of California San Diego, told the BBC: "You're more microbe than you are human."
At first, boffs thought our cells were outnumbered 10 to one, but the prof said: "That's been refined much closer to one-to-one, so the current estimate is you're about 43% human if you're counting up all the cells".
Scientists are rapidly uncovering the role microbial material plays in digestion, regulating the immune system, protecting against disease and manufacturing vital vitamins.
Prof Knight said: "We're finding ways that these tiny creatures totally transform our health in ways we never imagined until recently."
Until recently we have been hostile to the microbial world, launching attacks on bad bacteria with antibiotics and vaccines.
While this treatment has saved many lives from the likes of smallpox, Mycobacterium tuberculosis or MRSA, researchers fear untold damage has been done to "good" bacteria in our bodies.
Prof Ley told the BBC: "We have over the past 50 years done a terrific job of eliminating infectious disease.
"But we have seen an enormous and terrifying increase in autoimmune disease and in allergy.
"Where work on the microbiome comes in is seeing how changes in the microbiome, that happened as a result of the success we've had fighting pathogens, have now contributed to a whole new set of diseases that we have to deal with."
The microbiome has also been linked to diseases including inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson's, the effectiveness of cancer drugs and even depression and autism.
Monitoring our microbiome in human faeces might soon become a routine practice that provides a goldmine of information about our health.
Prof Knight said: "It's incredible to think each teaspoon of your stool contains more data in the DNA of those microbes than it would take literally a tonne of DVDs to store.
"At the moment every time you're taking one of those data dumps as it were, you're just flushing that information away.
"Part of our vision is, in the not too distant future, where as soon as you flush it'll do some kind of instant read-out and tells you are you going in a good direction or a bad direction.
"That I think is going to be really transformative."
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