The human body has some 10 trillion human cells -- but 10 times that number of microbial cells. So what happens when such an important part of our bodies goes missing?
With rapid changes in sanitation, medicine and lifestyle in the past century, some of these indigenous species are facing decline, displacement and possibly even extinction. In many of the world's larger ecosystems, scientists can predict what might happen when one of the central species is lost, but in the human microbial environment -- which is still largely uncharacterized -- most of these rapid changes are not yet understood.
Meanwhile, each new generation in developed countries comes into the world with fewer of these native populations. "They're actually missing some component of their microbiota that they've evolved to have," Foxman says.
Bugs Inside: What Happens When the Microbes That Keep Us Healthy Disappear?
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