Microbiome Myths: Myths Busted

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Over the course of this year we have been responding to common microbiome myths. Do you have any microbiome related questions or topics you are interested in? Reply to this email and we will try to respond in a future microbiome myths email, or head over to our website to read the previous microbiome myths instalment.  

“All bacteria are 
dangerous and 
cause disease.”

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Certain bacteria are pathogenic, such as the Escherichia coli strain O157:H7, which is responsible for food-borne diseases, but the sweeping pathogenic generalisation is not true. The microbiome is made up of a vast concoction of microbes that work in tandem to ensure a steady environment is maintained, including several beneficial bacteria. For example, bacteria maintain a pH of the vagina to an acidic level, and bacterial disruption causes pH levels to increase. This is a favourable environment for yeasts such as Candida albicans, the microbe responsible for yeast infections. This shows how important bacteria are in the maintenance of the microbiome.

In addition, an increase in probiotic awareness and knowledge of positive health benefits of gut bacteria, such as Lactobacillus spp. means this myth is becoming diluted in data and figures gained from extensive live biotherapeutic product research.

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“After death,
our microbiome
ceases to exist.”

It seem logical that the human microbiota might die off once their host has died.  However, DNA signatures of human-associated microbes can be detected in the soil below a decomposing body, on the soil surface and in graves for months or years after body tissues have decomposed.   Some of these bacteria can survive in the soil and even cooperate with soil microbes to help decompose a body.  They can also enhance nitrogen cycling, by recycling organic forms of nitrogen (e.g. proteins) into inorganic forms (e.g. ammonium and nitrate) that can be utilized by microbes and plants.

"The human microbiota surpasses human cells by 10:1.”

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This is a relatively common myth that has been debunked over the years and was based on incorrect calculations in the 1970s. The ratio is approximately 1:1, although the numbers will vary from person to person depending on factors such as body mass and the number of microbes in the colon.

Click here to read up on our Anaerobic Workstation Range

Contribution from DWS Microbiologist Kirsty McTear 

Info from: Frontiers | Microbiome in Death and Beyond: Current Vistas and Future Trends (frontiersin.org)
Human microbiome myths and misconceptions | Nature Microbiology


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