Tag Archives: Boston Globe

Notes from 2007 for a blog post I should have written: How many microbial cells in humans?

Well sometimes you just screw up.  In 2007 I attended some planning meetings for the human microbiome project (see for example A human microbiome program? a post I wrote from one of the meetings in 2007).  And at those meetings I kept asking one question.  Where did this “fact” everyone kept citing that there were “10 times as many microbial cells in the human body as there were human cells” come from?  I could not find a citation.  So I started taking some notes for a blog post about this.  Here are those notes:

Wikipedia linkOnline textbook hereSears paper from Arizona site. She discusses only gut bacteria and cites a Gordon paper from 2001.
Seems to not be from this paper but really from here:
This in turn is not from there but apparently here

But, alas I got distracted.  And I did keep asking people – where did this “fact” come from.  And most people just brushed me off (and probably thought I was a bit of a crank …). And nobody had a good answer.  Well, I was both pleased and sad (because I should have done it) to see Is your body mostly microbes? Actually, we have no idea by Peter Andrey Smith in the Boston Globe who addresses this issue in much much more detail that I ever could have done.  Everyone who works on the human microbiome and who is interested in “facts” and how they can get misreported should read this.  As a side note, Smith reports in the article that this is even given as a fact in Ted talks.  Sadly mine was one of them.  This is despite the fact (yes, the fact) that I swore to myself that I would NOT say that in my talk since I have been such a crank about this issue at meetings.  OMG – such truisms are so pervasive that even someone who actively questioned the truism still used it.  Uggh.  Oh well.  I really should have finished that draft post.

An ecosystem in my house? Yes indeed. And with microbes too. #BostonGlobe #microBEnet

Well I am very excited about this article in the Boston Globe today: Ecosystem, sweet ecosystem – The Boston Globe. By Courtney Humphries the article discusses the Sloan Foundation program in the “Indoor Environment” that is focusing on microbial ecology of the built environment. I am, well, really into this area of work and have a grant from the Sloan Foundation in their program to crete something called “microBEnet” which stands for “microbiology of the Built Environment network.” And in case you were wondering, yes, the BE is supposed to be capitalized and the m in microbe is not. My work in microBEnet is focused on Science 2.0 activities to help boost interaction and communication and outreach relating to studies of microbiology of the built environment. Check out the microBEnet site for more detail on that project (more on this in a bit).
Anyway, a little while ago I was interviewed by Courtney Humphries about studies of microbes in the built environment and the conversation seemed to go pretty well. And I kind of forgot about it due to some family things going on in my life. And then yesterday I saw the article. It is quite nice. It starts off with a nice drawing of a house making it look like an ecosystem

and the headline/lead in is really quite perfect “Ecosystem, sweet ecosystem.” is the headline with the subtitle “What if we studies the indoors as an environment all it’s own”.  She goes on to quite Hal Levin (my collaborator on microBEnet), Jessica Green (the head of the BioBE center in Oregon focusing on biology of the built environment), me, Paula Olsiewski (the Program Officer at Sloan in charge of the Indoor Environment program) and Bill Nazaroff from Berkeley, who is also funded by the Sloan Foundation to work in this area.

The article is definitely worth a read.  Only issue really is that I have a feeling people may be distracted by some sort of storm hitting the East Coast right now.  Well, after the storm hits, microbiology of the indoor environment will likely be even more important to pay attention to.

If you want to brush up on studies of microbiology of the built environment check out some of the resources we have made and/or collated at microBEnet including:

Stay tuned for more, from microBEnet, from Sloan funded researchers, and from others studying microbiology of the built environment.  We spend on the order of 90% of our lives in built environments like buildings, cars, trains, etc.  It’s about time we started studying such environments as ecosystems …