Into the Micrbiome: A parallel world of microbes
The world is celebrating microbiome day today!
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A day dedicated to microbes.
How absurd is that!
Why would anybody dedicate an entire day to microbes?
This is because we are surrounded by microbes everywhere.
Secondly, of all these microbes around us, we humans house have more than a trillion inside our body!! Now this makes it interesting enough for us to know more about these tiny living creatures and the huge impact they have on our daily lives.
Let’s try to answer some frequently asked questions about microbiome.
1. What is a Microbiome?
The word Microbiome originates from the words “micro” and “biome”. Which basically refers to the tiny organisms living in an environment. And a microbiome is the collection of microbes and their genetic elements present in a particular environment.
It is a known fact that microbes have been the very first organisms to live on earth.
But did you know? That if lined up from end to end these microbes would stretch around 10 billion light years! That’s the distance from here to the edge of the universe.
2. How are we associated with microbes?
We are a home to trillions of microbes! Clearly our body contains a diverse variety of microbes spread across skin, mouth, gut, respiratory tract and genitals. Besides they play a vital role in our physical and mental health. Surprisingly, the entire microbiome weighs as much as our brain, which is approximately 1kg in weight.
3. Are these microbes harmful to us?
No, not all microbes are harmful. On the contrary, some have been living with us in a symbiotic relationship for ages. Consequently these tiny organisms inhabiting inside us have co-evolved along with us.
Additionally, they have acquired different functions in due course of evolution. In a symbiotic relationship, microbes get a comfortable environment to flourish in the host that is us humans. While we humans in turn benefit from the microbial genes and their metabolites.
In addition to it, we also use microbe supplements as probiotics to combat multiple health conditions.
4. Do we all share the same set of microbiomes?
Microbiome differences make us unique. It is influenced by our diet, habitat, birth method, drugs and disease conditions. Therefore, each individual possesses a unique microbiome. It could differ 80–90% from one another. Unlike the human genome, which is 99.9% identical to one another.
It has been speculated that an individual’s microbiome could be used as fingerprinting one day!
5. How knowledge about our microbiome can help us?
The ongoing research on microbes is vital because of their incredible properties. For instance, gut microbiome influences the first line of defense against pathogens. It is also essential for human development for shaping anatomical structures in the intestinal tract.
Further more, they also assist in food digestion, synthesize some of the vitamins and even your hormones. Nutrigenomics has made it possible to curate perfectly customized diet plans best suited for the individual’s genes and flora.
The phrase “listen to your gut” is not just a saying but has scientific reasons too. For our gut microbes communicate with our brain and vice versa via the gut-brain axis. Evidently enough, they play an important role in brain development and behaviour. Also many of the neurotransmitters that signal the brain are synthesized by the gut microbiome.
They maintain homeostasis. Any imbalance in our microenvironment can lead to dysbiosis. Furthermore, lead to various diseases like Inflammatory Bowel Disorder, Celiac disease, depression, obesity, acne, eczema and so on. Thus, it is crucial for us to focus on our microbiome and its health.
Being aware is powerful!
Microbiomes contribute to a clean environment, maintaining food chains, control climate change and our immunity and health as well. Our food is produced, degraded and digested with the help of microbes. Our foods contain pesticides as well.
It’s our gut microbes that degrade some of these insecticides. Thus are valuable as xenobiotics.
So why not utilize these powerful microbes for a sustainable future?
Increase shelf life of food, minimize food wastes and provide nutrients to the soil with the help of microbes.
The world has recognized the importance of microbiome and has dedicated a day to celebrate these tiny yet significant organisms.
27th June is celebrated as World Microbiome Day around the globe. The theme for this year 2021 is “sustainability” with a focus on how microbes can contribute to a sustainable future.
Try answering these questions:
How similar are people in terms of microbiome?
A. People share same microbiome
B. People share no similar microbiome
C. People possess unique microbiome
How long have microbes been living with us?
A. Since ancestral times
B. Since modern colonization
C. Since the 21st century.