May 30, 2009

Healthy skin crawls with bacteria

The estimated 1,000 species of bacteria inhabiting healthy human skin are likely necessary for proper body functioning, researchers said.

Bacterial colonies reside on different parts of the skin, some in the armpit and belly button, which are akin to tropical rain forests, and others on the forearm, which resembles an arid desert, researchers from the National Institutes of Health told the Los Angeles Times in a story published Saturday.

We live in a microbial world, and these things are not all out to get us, said Noah Fierer, a microbial ecologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Researchers in the $115 million Human Microbiome Project, are cataloging microorganisms that inhabit the skin, stomach, nose, mouth and vagina. Fierer studies bacteria on hands.

For the project, the researchers collected a total of 112,283 microorganisms from 10 racially diverse volunteers before dividing the organisms into roughly 1,000 species, the Times reported.