Or so say the folks at The Institute for Genomic Research where they’ve been studying up on the bacteria that live inside the human gut. We’ve known for a long time that our digestive system has several hundred species of bacteria living in it that aid in digestion, but it appears we’re more dependent on them than we originally thought. So much so that it could be argued we’re a symbiotic organism:
“We are somehow like an amalgam, a mix of bacteria and human cells. There are some estimates that say 90 percent of the cells on our body are actually bacteria,” Steven Gill, a molecular biologist formerly at TIGR and now at the State University of New York in Buffalo, said in a telephone interview.
“We’re entirely dependent on this microbial population for our well-being. A shift within this population, often leading to the absence or presence of beneficial microbes, can trigger defects in metabolism and development of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease.”
Scientists have long known that at least 50 percent of human feces, and often more, is made up of bacteria from the gut. Bacteria start to colonize the intestines and colon shortly after birth, and adults carry up to 100 trillion microbes, representing more than 1,000 different species.
They are not just freeloading. They help humans to digest much of what we eat, including some vitamins, sugars, and fiber. They also synthesize vitamins that people cannot.
“Humans have evolved for million of years with these bacteria. And they provide essential functions,” Gill said.
It’ll be interesting to see what the IDiots have to say about this one.