AS RESEARCH projects go, it probably didn’t sound too earth-shattering for the volunteers who offered to help. Apart from demonstrating their good health, they simply had to give blood, stool and saliva samples, as well as have swabs taken from various locations on their bodies.
We will probably never know their names but the contribution of those 242 American men and women, who were willing to share the intimate details of their microbial profile with the world, is having a profound impact on our understanding of health and illness, and is even raising questions about what it means to be human. This research into the microbiome – the viruses, bacteria and other microbes living with us – also puts a whole new slant on some longstanding public health problems, like the overuse of antibiotics – but more on that later…
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