Our Microbial World

We live in a microbial world. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, single-celled eukaryotes like diatoms and protists, are found in the ground, water, and air we move through each day. From the depths of the ocean to the thin atmosphere surrounding Earth, microbes drive the fundamental processes of our world.

They create oxygen, sugars, fats. They recycle plants, animals, and other microbes into the basic building blocks of life.

Eukaryotes exist because of microbial interactions. One microbe engulfed another and the second wasn’t fully digested, but instead “farmed” for nutrients the “host” microbe lacked. This partnership allowed both microorganisms – one nestled inside the other – to survive better, in new habitats, on different nutrients, or perhaps divide faster than its uninhabited microbial friends. Since that first partnership, over evolutionary time, new partnerships formed. Plants and animals evolved and became new species – often due to the co-option of a novel microbial partner. We humans are no different.

Humans as microbial ecosystems
You are an ecosystem composed of many different habitats and environments.

Humans as a Microbial World

We are a microbial world.  Microbial guests, many of them friendly, inhabit our bodies inside and out. We contact each other – with a handshake, kiss, hug, or fist bump – each time exchanging microbes with other humans. Surrounding you and your fellow humans is a cloud of microbial particles that is as uniquely you as the ridges on your fingertips. Speaking of fingerprints, you have distinctly different microbial communities on your left versus right hand and whatever you touch leaves this unique microbial fingerprint along with the oily fingerprint from your human skin.  What makes each person uniquely themselves is not only their set of genes that they inherited from their parents, but also their microbial counterparts that they have picked up from birth, foods, and the environment.

Not all bacteria make you sick. The public constantly bombarded with commercials for everything from antibacterial soaps and toothpaste to clothes and toys, but actually killing all microbes may make us sicker instead of healthier! As a post-doc at the Institute for Genome Sciences, I interact with the leading scientists, whose research on the human microbiome and genomics is changing the way we view human health and disease. These microbiome research findings are often inaccessible, overhyped, or misunderstood by the media and lay public, so I use science blogging and social media to share how and why microscopic organisms are essential for our health.

Mostly Microbe‘s Role in the Microbial World

This blog, Mostly Microbes, tells stories of the marvelous microbial world in and around us. In particular, Mostly Microbes provides a reputable voice and resources in these early days of human microbiome research. The promise and excitement for microbiome research to improve human health can get exaggerated or misunderstood and misinformation quickly spread. Mostly Microbes features reviews of latest human microbiome research, as well as reputable books on microbes for adults and kids, activities for the classroom or household, and microbiome “friendly” recipes.

Upon becoming a mom, as a scientist,  I turned to scientific research papers to help myself make more informed “evidence-based” decisions. Not everyone has the time, access to the papers, interest, or training to read science papers for their questions. I use Mostly Microbes as a place to share what I’ve read and learned to help other parents make informed decisions. The posts below are meant as a level-headed introduction to the science of the human microbiome. Great care has been taken to cite the primary literature throughout these posts and provide additional reputable resources.

I also talk to my kids about microbes – maybe too much. The girls and I have made yogurt together, a video about healthy eating and the gut microbiome, Winogradsky gradients, and more. Translating microbiome research findings to kids under 8 helps me distill the most important messages of the science, while getting the kids excited about the world invisible to the naked eye. I hope you find some of these activities fun too.  For other activities check out my Resources page links to my YouTube channel and Pinterest boards. Both of these sites have curated content I have reviewed. There’s a lot out there I haven’t had time to review or don’t know about. Please use the Contact Me page to share resources you know about or create. Send me any questions or comments you might have. It helps me to know what you do not understand.

To join the Mostly Microbes  community conversations on social media, see my CONNECT page.

This blog is a passion of mine, if you feel it is helpful to you and a valuable resource, please see the Support page for indirect and direct ways to support the costs of this blog. Many thanks.

Me and the Microbiome Mama at the Secret World Inside You

Me and the Microbiome Mama at the Secret World Inside You