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A gut feeling

What impact can the gut microbiome have on the human body? AD Diwan and SN Harke dive down the oesophagus to find out.

The human body contains a large number of bacteria, viruses and fungi, collectively known as the microbiome community. While some bacteria are associated with disease, others are important for strengthening of our immune system, the proper functioning of organs, maintenance of body weight and many other aspects of our health. Trillions of these microbes exist in our bodies, particularly in the intestines and skin. Most of the microbes are located in the large intestine and they are referred to as the gut microbiome.

Although many different types of microbes are present in our bodies, most studies have been carried on bacterial composition of the digestive gut system. In fact, there are several reports that the human body contains more bacterial cells than actual human cells. It has been estimated that roughly 40 trillion bacterial cells are present in our bodies, whereas, human cell counts are around 30 trillion. Scientists all over the world have reported about 1000 species of bacteria in the human gut microbiome, each of which plays a different role in the body.

Most of them are extremely important for maintaining our body health, while a few may be harmful in creating diseases. Altogether, these microbes may weigh up to five pounds – roughly the weight of a brain.

Gut microbiome composition

The human microbiome consists of microorganisms like bacteria, archea, fungi, protozoans, and viruses. Among all microbiome microorganisms, bacteria are the most predominant. The bacterial population has been estimated between 75 and 200 trillion in a single person. The first bacterium that was noticed in the intestinal region was Escherichia coli. Other bacterial species observed were Veillonella parvula in the digestive tract and bifidobacteria in intestinal fluid. It has been estimated that human microbiota consists of more than 1000 different species of microorganisms. It is reported that the human gut microbiome contains more than 160 species of bacteria. Besides healthy bacteria, there are a number of unhealthy and pathogenic bacteria such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Klebsiella, Enterobacter and Neisseria species causing various types of intestinal disorders. Clostridioides difficile, a pathogenic bacterium most commonly found in the human gut microbiome, causes severe recurrent diarrhoea. Prevotella and Firmicutes bacteria and their abundant presence in the gut system have been associated with obesity.

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