Where did our microbiome come from?

The trillions of organisms in the human body - how do they get there?
29 June 2021


this is a picture of some micro-organisms down a microscope



Where did our microbiome come from?


Chris Smith asked geneticist Rob Finn about the origins of our microbiome - the trillions of bugs that live on or inside us...

Rob - They start coming into us as we're being born. So it's been shown that as you are born... those children who are born by caesarean section, they don't actually have as mature microbiome as when they come out. So that's a very important part. And then throughout your life, so as you start feeding, breast milk is not pasteurised like our milk is typically pasteurised, so there are bacteria in that milk. You start ingesting those bacteria. And then as you start moving onto solid food, you start getting a more interesting microbiome. It becomes more diverse just because you're exposed to more things. So really it's about the food we eat, and the environment we're in, and also what happens to your microbiome over time. You don't get it and then it stays fixed. Obviously as you may have courses of antibiotics that may change your microbiome. So it's really one of those things that - you are what you eat and what you get exposed to.

Chris - It's often said that you never dine alone, even if you are on your own, because there are 37 trillion bacteria there to help you digest your dinner.

Rob - Indeed. I mean, they're really, really important in that digestion process. And they are really important to your health. And this is why there are lots of people now advocating that looking after your microbiome is a really important part to human health.

Katie - Is it... so children get their microbiome from putting everything in their mouths and playing in the mud and all of that. Is that something that should be encouraged for little kids to go out and just like devour everything, or is it like... what are the limits to that?

Chris - Social services, you can get in touch with Katie Mack via her email address or find her on Twitter.

Katie - Because I've heard about this, and I'm just wondering what the actual advice is.

Rob - Yeah. You get exposed to so much. So if you take someone who has a very clean sort of lifestyle and never puts anything in, or everything's really disinfected, you're going to get sources from all different shapes and form. There is this notion of, you know, having pets, and - that slightly less sanitised environment is actually better for you. There is a little bit of evidence of it, but there are so many factors to the construction of your microbiome that actually I wouldn't advocate going and licking sort of toys that have fallen on the floor to try and improve your microbiome. You're far better off having a varied and balanced diet.


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