I was listing to the radio and heard recent research found a link between children and higher cases of asthma when certain bacteria are missing from the microbiome. How many other diseases can be linked to a disrupted microbiome and are there ways in repopulating missing bacteria?


It is an open question and an active area of research. You will not be able to get a definitive answer to your question of number, as each new discovery will add to the total.

As for repopulating, we have not even determined all of the strains of microbes that populate us, many are very difficult to culture in vitro, and we do not know of all the functions for each species, so we do not have a clear picture of which need to be there, which don't, and whether or not some species work together to provide us with a benefit. For certain conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, one of the treatments that has been tried is fecal transplant.

Do a literature search for recent reviews. Nature Reviews tend to do detailed reviews, especially on topics as in the news as the Human Microbiome. That is probably the best first place to start. Then you can start to drill down into the reference papers that are cited in the review. That will generally give you a good state of play in the field.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the reply I will definitely take a look at some of the literature out there, I was very surprised to find out how many bacteria live on and inside of us. And I was told all this time growing up that "germs" are the enemy! $\endgroup$ – Dan Terry Oct 1 '15 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ @DanTerry They are actually a very important part of the innate immune system. One aspect of immunity is keeping pathogens out. One way we do that is mucus. Another way is to provide a favorable living environment for microorganisms that don't harm us. The term for these is Commensals. Basically commensals, yeast, bacteria, etc, that are non-pathogenic to us, grow on our exposed surfaces, i.e. skin, respiratory tract and our gastric tract. The are there to basically just take up space that would otherwise be populated by pathogens. There are 10x more microbes than human cells making up a human $\endgroup$ – AMR Oct 2 '15 at 0:42

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