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Women's Hands Home to More Types of Germs
Date:11/4/2008

But all palms contain 100 times the bacteria assumed, scientists say

TUESDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Women's hands have a veritable United Nations of germs compared to men's, a new study finds.

But both genders house vastly more bacteria on their palms than previously suspected, according to a new study from University of Colorado researchers that appears in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The information may enable scientists to figure out what a "healthy" level of bacteria is, diagnose diseases more precisely, and perhaps even get advance warning that something is going wrong.

"The findings of the last few decades suggest that many diseases are due to many organisms, and it's the concerted change that leads to disease," noted Robert E. Marquis, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Microbes are one of the last frontiers for human exploration. In fact, the National Institutes of Health has initiated the Human Microbiome Project, with the objective of mapping human microbiota, most of which is currently unknown.

"With all the bacteria in the world, we probably know of less than 1 percent of them," Marquis said.

The technology used in this study, already used to study ocean waters, will help enable scientists to encounter the other 99 percent, he said.

The skin, particularly the palms of the hands, house thriving bacterial communities. To get a sense of the flora residing there, researchers scrutinized the palms of 51 undergraduate students for bacteria, just after the students had finished their academic exams.

A sampling of the entire DNA of microbes (known as metagenomics) revealed some 332,000 gene sequences, or about 100 times more than was found in previous studies of skin bacteria.

On average, each hand was home to about 150 different species of
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