Now of course, certain public locales and occupations require extra care for removing these “germs” – such as hospital operating rooms, hotels and restaurants etc. We want these public, common areas as clean as possible.
However, recent research indicates that people, including parents, have become overly concerned or obsessive about maintaining a microbe free environment. But creating a “sterile” environment is almost impossible to achieve, as well as not being healthy for us or the environment. We endanger our children by limiting the capacity of their immune systems to develop properly. This is called the Hygiene hypothesis.
So if microbes are everywhere, but mostly harmless, shouldn’t we get to know them a little better?
In this regard, the NIH-funded Human Microbiome Project or HMP (http://www.hmpdacc.org) has begun to profile our own human symbiotic bacteria using modern molecular DNA sequencing methods. Deep “next generation” sequencing is the ability to sequence the biochemical code of DNA more quickly. This has increased dramatically in the last several years due to new technologies. The HMP has now revealed distinct microbiomes that live in various human anatomical locations, such as our intestines (guts), mouths, uro-genital tract, and skin.
Skin may not be as well known as the gut, but has a distinct community of microbes, which varies more widely than other organs and body locales. Indeed, the skin microbiome may represent one of the most variable human microbiomes of the whole body, which also adds to each individual’s uniqueness (Fig 2). Skin microbiomes often differ between gender, as females have a greater proportion of Lactobacilli than males. Certain types of Propionibacteria also can cause acne.
However, normal skin microbes such as Staphylococcus epidermidis, can also help prevent potential pathogens from attaching to our skin, through competition. One may also say, these microbes are our “friends for life”. However, science is still far from fully understanding their role in human health, and so a deeper survey of normal human skin microbiomes across different global populations would help track variation over time and space. This is where the “Skin Deep” project begins:
Microbes, and specifically bacteria and fungi are all around us. But contrary to popular belief these microbes are NOT all bad. On the contrary most are actually beneficial, and many species live with us, including on our skin, in diverse symbiotic microscopic communities of bacteria called “microbiomes”.
The Skin Deep Microbiome Project