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Human Skin Harbors Many More Types of Bacteria

the human body are still unknown," he says. "We all live with bacteria all our lives and occasionally we smile, so they're not that bad for us."

The most numerous cells in our body are microbial—they outnumber our cells 10 to 1. The body has microbes native to the body, including the skin, and these populations change according to how we live, he says. "Ultimately what we want to do is compare disease and health," says Dr. Blaser. Keeping bacterial populations in our body stable may be part of staying healthy, he says.

In the new study, the researchers took swabs from the inner right and left forearms of six individuals picking the region halfway between the wrist and the elbow for its convenience. "It's not where they wash their hands," explains Dr. Blaser. "And they don't have to undress." The researchers wanted to be able to compare two similar parts of the body. Because they also wanted to study change over time, they took swabs from four of the individuals 8 to10 months after the first test.

Roughly half, or 54.4%, of the bacteria identified in the samples represented the genera Propionibacteria, Corynebacteria, Staphylococcus and Streptococcus, which have long been considered more or less permanent residents in human skin.

The six individuals differed markedly in the overall composition of the bacterial populations on their skin. They only had four species of bacteria in common:

Propionibacterium acnes, Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum, Streptococcus mitis, and Finegoldia AB109769. "This is a surprise," says Dr. Gao. "But many things affecting the skin affect bacteria, such as the weather, exposure to light, and cosmetics use."

Almost three-quarters, or 71.4%, of the total number of bacterial species were unique to individual subjects, suggesting that the skin surface is highly diversified in terms of the bacteria it harbors, according to the study.

Three bacterial species were only fou
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