The healthy adult body hosts ten times as many microbial cells as human cells, including bacteria, archaea, viruses, and eukaryotic microbes resident on nearly every body surface. The metagenome carried collectively by these microbial communities dwarfs the human genome in size. For the first time, a consortium of researchers has mapped the full community of microbes that inhabit various parts of the healthy body.
The new PLoS Human Microbiome Project Collection encompasses genome sequencing research that shows reference data for microbes living with healthy adults. The studies were conducted by individual groups that make up the Human Microbiome Consortium and include publications from PLoS ONE, PLoS Computational Biology and PLoS Genetics.
The manuscripts within the Collection provide a comprehensive baseline of the microbial diversity at 18 different human body sites. This includes reference genomes of thousands of host-associated microbial isolates, 3.5 terabases of metagenomic sequences, assemblies, and metabolic reconstructions, and a catalogue of over 5 million microbial genes.
A number of studies also look at the relationships between the microbiome and the host, and how these interactions relate to health. They describe the shifts in the composition of various microbial communities as they relate to a number of specific conditions: the gut microbiome and Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and esophageal adenocarcinoma; the skin microbiome and psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis and immunodeficiency; urogenital microbiome and reproductive and sexual history and circumcision and a number of childhood disorders, including pediatric abdominal pain and intestinal inflammation, and neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis.
Accompanying this Collection are two articles published in the journal Nature by the Human Microbiome Project Consortium. The results of these two papers provide the foundation for the research published in the Human Microbiome Project Collection.
"Recently developed genome sequencing methods now provide a powerful lens for looking at the human microbiome," said Eric D. Green, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, which managed HMP for NIH. "The astonishing drop in the cost of sequencing DNA has made possible the kind of large survey performed by the Human Microbiome Project."
Collection Citation: PLoS Collections: The Human Microbiome Project Collection (2012) www.ploscollections.org/hmp
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