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Updated by Stacey D on Oct 09, 2018
Stacey D Stacey D
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What is a Microbiome and Why Does it Matter?

From genetics to our gut health, the scientific term microbiome has become a modern buzzword. Also referred to as microbiota, it is time to learn more about the meaning of the word microbiome and what it means to everyone.

What is the gut microbiota? What is the human microbiome?

The microbiota and microbiome of the human body have been researched intensively in recent years. Find out about what we now know about them and what they mean for our health.


A microbiota is "the ecological community of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms that literally share our body space".[1][2] Joshua Lederberg coined the term, emphasising the importance of microorganisms inhabiting the human body in health and disease. Many scientific articles distinguish microbiome and microbiota to describe either the collective genomes of the microorganisms that reside in an environmental niche or the microorganisms themselves, respectively.[3][4][5] However, by the original definitions, these terms are largely synonymous.

We aren’t just single individuals walking the planet: we’re walking ecosystems. And like our planet, the human body has many different environments, each with a unique set of biotic and abiotic factors.

Microbiome Research - Hudson Robotics, Inc.

Click here for more info about Microbiome Research from Hudson Robotics. Based out of Springfield, NJ.

Defining the Human Microbiome

Rapidly developing sequencing methods and analytical techniques are enhancing our ability to understand the human microbiome, and, indeed, how we define the microbiome and its constituents. In this review we highlight recent research that expands our ability to understand the human microbiome on different spatial and temporal scales, including daily timeseries datasets spanning months. Furthermore, we discuss emerging concepts related to defining operational taxonomic units, diversity indices, core versus transient microbiomes and the possibility of enterotypes. Additional advances in sequencing technology and in our understanding of the microbiome will provide exciting prospects for exploiting the microbiota for personalized medicine.

What does the term microbiome mean? And where did it come from? A bit of a surprise ..

“Microbiome” is such a hot term these days.  And one key question many ask is “what does it mean?”  A related question is – “where did the term come from?” I tried to tackle this many years ago on my blog with a post: The human microbiome – term being used in many ways – but at least it is getting some press.  Basically my main point was that it seemed that the term “microbiome” then should be used to refer to the collection of genomes of microbes in a system and that “microbiota” should be used to refer to the collection of organisms.  Some key quotes from that post:

How Your Microbiome Controls Your Health

Research into microbiome shows that it is critical to every aspect of your health -- when your microbiome falls out of balance, you can become ill.

What’s A MicroBiome and Why Should You Care? 5 Questions with Dr. Rob Knight

Humans have been living with microbes and germs forever - and this isn't a bad thing.

human microbiome

The full array of microorganisms (the microbiota) that live on and in humans and, more specifically, the collection of microbial genomes that contribute to the broader genetic...