Fact: You Carry Around Enough Bacteria To Fill A Large Soup Can

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How much bacteria do people carry around?


Enough to fill a big soup can. “That’s three to five pounds of bacteria,” says Lita Proctor, the program coordinator of the National Institutes of Health’s Human Microbiome Project, which studies the communities of bacteria living on and in us. The bacteria cells in our body outnumber human cells 10 to 1, she says, but because they are much smaller than human cells, they account for only about 1 to 2 percent of our body mass—though they do make up about half of our body’s waste.

The host of bacteria we carry around weren’t well-cataloged until recently. In July 2011, at North Carolina State University, the Belly Button Biodiversity study found about 1,400 different strains of bacteria living in the navels of 95 participants. Of these, 662 strains were previously unrecognized.

A new nonprofit called MyMicrobes wants to connect people through a social network exclusively to talk and compare experiences with, you guessed it, bacteria (specifically gastrointestinal bacteria).

Written By: Nick Statt
continue to source article at popsci.com

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  1. A new nonprofit called MyMicrobes wants to connect people through a social network exclusively to talk and compare experiences with, you guessed it, bacteria (specifically gastrointestinal bacteria).

    Knock yourselves out, hypochondriacs!!

    • In reply to #1 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

      A new nonprofit called MyMicrobes wants to connect people through a social network exclusively to talk and compare experiences with, you guessed it, bacteria (specifically gastrointestinal bacteria).

      Knock yourselves out, hypochondriacs!!

      There are some who would take a serious interest.

      I had an operation to repair damage from an accident injury in July, and the antibiotics massacred my gut flora. I am trying to get the better ones back to settle my digestion.

      There are studies which show our gut chemistry can have considerable effects on other aspects of our health.

      • Sorry about the flippant attitude. Such a social network would certainly be helpful and informative. Hope you get the good bacteria back soon. In reply to #5 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #1 by Christiana Magdalene Moodley:

        A new nonprofit called MyMicrobes wants to connect people through a social network exclusively to talk and compare experiences with, you guessed it, bacteria (specifically gastrointestinal bacteria).

        Knock yourselves out, hypochondriacs!!

        There are…

      • In reply to #5 by Alan4discussion:

        There are studies which show our gut chemistry can have considerable effects on other aspects of our health.

        Yes, this reminds of an article I read somewhere about a study that suggests that gut flora can have a considerable effect on obesity. Who knows? Tomorrow’s cure for obesity might turn out to be… a can of bacteria.

      • In reply to #5 by Alan4discussion:

        I had an operation to repair damage from an accident injury in July, and the antibiotics massacred my gut flora. I am trying to get the better ones back to settle my digestion.

        Whilst we’re on the topic, thought about this? Less TIC, are you chugging Actimels and cutting back on the milk? Get well soon(er)!

        • In reply to #11 by Docjitters:

          Whilst we’re on the topic, thought about this? Less TIC, are you chugging Actimels and cutting back on the milk? Get well soon(er)!

          Yes I am trying some Actimels, and now taking no antibiotics.

          Thanks for the link. It is useful to know that type of treatment is available if it becomes needed. Fortunately I am improving, and don’t have any serious symptoms, but because I had a tear in my small intestine repaired, the antibiotics targeted gut bacteria.

    • In reply to #2 by justinesaracen:

      Note to self. Do not read the Comments section to popular science articles.

      Agreed ! Just looked and lost any faith I had left in the human race. Best just to stay here and rock gently in the corner.
      Back on subject I remember having an opened can of soup in the cupboard of my student flat that held similar quantities of bacteria. I wonder where it is now. I’ll look out for it at the next reunion.

    • In reply to #2 by justinesaracen:

      Note to self. Do not read the Comments section to popular science articles.

      note to self, when someone says not to read comments section don’t get all curious and have a look

  2. Happily, a large proportion of those bacteria are good for us, whereas some are at least not harmful and others are bad for us. But I am surprised to learn that there are quite so many of them, around two kilos!

    • In reply to #8 by A3Kr0n:

      If you could have the gut flora from anybody in the world, who would it be? I see a whole new market opening up here.

      I think the “pro-biotic” yoghurt manufacturers are on to this, but I am not convinced that their products will make it past the stomach acid alive!

  3. I had always heard bacteria were about 70% by weight. I wonder if my original source was just wrong, or there is some way of interpreting the conditions.

    I asked my doctor why we must be so careful with handwashing after using the toilet when the gut is full of feces. Why don’t the feces inside cause trouble? He said that the upper gut is sensitive to various bacteria, where the lower gut is immune to them, even E. Coli. So when you handwash, you are protecting yourself as well as others.

    I am speculating here. The lower gut is not concerned with absorbing anything but water, so it can be more impervious to bacteria.

    You can buy a selection of dried friendly bacteria, in pill form e.g. Florastor. One application is to use them to restore flora after antibiotics that wipes out everything.

    • In reply to #12 by Roedy:

      I had always heard bacteria were about 70% by weight. I wonder if my original source was just wrong, or there is some way of interpreting the conditions.

      Is it not worked out on the number of cells, rather than the weight, as bacterial cells are smaller?

      Humans Carry More Bacterial Cells than Human Ones

      All the bacteria living inside you would fill a half-gallon jug; there are 10 times more bacterial cells in your body than human cells according to Carolyn Bohach, a microbiologist at the University of Idaho (U.I.), along with other estimates from scientific studies. (Despite their vast numbers, bacteria don’t take up that much space because bacteria are far smaller than human cells.) Although that sounds pretty gross, it’s actually a very good thing.

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