Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division
On a cellular basis, microorganisms outnumber human cells ten to one, and many scientists emphasize the importance of including these microbial cells and their genes when considering the genetic machinery available in our bodies. Indeed, the human body can be considered a “super-organism” or composite of human and microbial cells. The microbial communities that populate human tissue surfaces can vary greatly between individuals. Even different regions of the same organ (such as skin) can have very different microbial profiles. These microbes and their genes (the microbiome) can be seen as a modifiable environmental or genetic factor that influences human health. Recent advances in biomedical technologies, such as high throughput sequencing, have opened the door to truly characterizing these previously unseen effects on human health.