17 Surprising Facts About Your Body’s Bacteria

Nothing personal, but your microbiome is a truly curious thing.

Gotta love those bacteria of yours. After all, right now many of them are doing a remarkable job of keeping your body in good shape.

We love them too of course, and every day our labs run genetic sequencing on unimaginable numbers of the little critters.

Not surprisingly our scientists know a thing or two about the bacteria in your body, some of it pretty extraordinary, so I figured a choice selection of facts would be a fun way to start your week.

1. A study of belly button bacteria found 1,458 different species. One person’s navel contained bacteria that had previously only ever been seen in soil from Japan. Curiously, this individual had never been to Japan.

2. A Dutch study showed that a ten second intimate kiss between two people results in the exchange of 80 million bacteria.

3. Japanese scientists discovered a new species of bacteria that can live in hairspray.

4. Partly because of oral bacteria, human bites are considered one of the most dangerous animal bites in the world. Around 1% of emergency department visits in the U.S. are associated with mammalian bites (not all are human of course).

5. If all the bacteria in and on your body was carefully scooped up, it would weigh three to five pounds and fill a large soup can.

6. Even when you clean your teeth thoroughly there will still be between 1,000 and 100,000 bacteria remaining on each tooth.

7. Certain kinds of bacteria help with digestion. Mice specially bred to have bacteria-free guts ate 41 percent more calories than mice whose intestines contained the usual microbes.

8. The average human body contains 100 trillion microbial cells, if each cell was represented by a dollar bill, the resulting stack of money would reach from the earth to the moon and back 14 times.

9. There are around 20 billion bacteria in your mouth alone (almost three times the number of people in the world). Some reproduce every five hours.

10. Bacteria are classified into three main shapes. Spheres (cocci), rods (bacilli) and spirals/corkscrews (spirilla/spirochaetes).

11. The average person swallows a litre of their own saliva every day, containing 100 billion bacteria.

12. Sweat has no smell but it combines with bacteria on the body to produce body odor.

13. One kilogram of the bacterium C. botulinum could, if properly distributed, kill the entire human population.

14. Babies are born with absolutely no bacteria in their bodies. They get their first dose as they pass through their mother’s birth canal.

15. Some bacteria move fast: speeds of 50 to 60 times their own length in a second have been observed. That’s the equivalent of a 6 foot human running at over 200 miles per hour, more than three times the speed of a cheetah.

16. To prove his hypothesis that stomach ulcers are caused by bacteria rather than stress, Australian scientist Barry Marshall swallowed a beaker of Heliobacter pylori. He did get a peptic ulcer. And the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

17. The gonorrhea bacterium is the strongest organism on earth. It can pull with a force equal to 100,000 times its body weight, the equivalent of a human dragging 10 million kilos. That’s the weight of 22 fully-laden Boeing 747s.

Like I said, you’ve got to love bacteria.

Have a great week!

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