Carl Zimmer spoke with Michael A. Fischbach, a microbiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, author ofa medical ecology manifesto published this month in the journal Science Translational Medicine, as well as other scientists and proponents of medical ecology. for the NYT. These researchers are interested in the concept of the microbiome and the ecologically complex relationships between humans and our internal bacteria colonies.
Similarly, in another recent recent piece by Gina Kolata for the NYT, two scientists suggest the idea that humans are more “like coral, an assemblage of life-forms living together” or that if we switched our perspective “From the standpoint of our microbiome…we may just serve as packaging“.
Dr. Barnett Kramer, director of the division of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute, who was not involved with the research project, had another image. Humans, he said, in some sense are made mostly of microbes. From the standpoint of our microbiome, he added, “we may just serve as packaging.”
All of this news comes out a new five-year federal endeavor, the Human Microbiome Project, which has been compared to the Human Genome Project. For the endeavor, 200 scientists at 80 institutions sequenced the genetic material of bacteria taken from nearly 250 healthy people.