More on the human ‘super-organism’

Intestine and gut microbeThere’s a good short piece, Humans Have Ten Times More Bacteria Than Human Cells: How Do Microbial Communities Affect Human Health?, in Science Daily, picks up on some of the themes we discussed in The human ’super-organism.’ The overwhelming majority of cells in human bodies belongs to microbes — the article says 10 bacteria cells for every human body cell (does it make you feel tired to think how much bacteria you’re carrying around?). Recognizing that we are a shambling micro-cosmos of oraganisms (or ‘microbiome’) suggests new understandings of all sorts of things, including disease. The Science Daily article points out that ‘changes in these microbial communities may be responsible for digestive disorders, skin diseases, gum disease and even obesity.’

There’s one passage in particular that I thought was worth posting, even if I don’t have too much to add:

“This could be the basis of a whole new way of looking at disease. In order to understand how changes in normal bacterial populations affect or are affected by disease we first have to establish what normal is or if normal even exists,” says Margaret McFall Ngai of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The microbiome research is particularly interesting to us at Neuroanthropology, even though it’s not strictly about the brain or nervous system, because it’s a particular compelling demonstration that the human body is a dynamic system; that is, the body is a system of different forces and processes, at a number of scales, that together continually produce the whole, sometimes in equilibrium and sometimes in ways that produce dysfunction.

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