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Mar­vels that can change our per­cep­tion of the world

Micro­organ­isms are in the air, on our food, and even in our bod­ies. With­out them we could not even breathe or eat. Bil­lions of mi­crobes live on as well as inside our bod­ies, en­abling and reg­u­lat­ing our ex­is­tence. For every one of our own cells in the body, there may be up to 10 uni­cel­lu­lar or­gan­isms. One- third of all the meta­bolic prod­ucts found in our blood come from bac­te­ria rather than from our own cells. Some re­searchers even think that a hu­man isn’t an in­de­pen­dent crea­ture, but rather a mix­ture of dif­fer­ent or­gan­isms— a so-called holo­biont. “We are noth­ing more than a bac­te­rial colony on two legs,” says Jeroen Raes of the Flem­ish In­sti­tute for Biotech­nol­ogy in Bel­gium. In just 1 mil­li­liter of in­testi­nal con­tents, there may be up to 1 tril­lion bac­te­ria. The var­i­ous in­testi­nal bac­te­ria ful­fill an es­ti­mated 15,000 func­tions, in­clud­ing killing germs, pro­duc­ing vi­ta­mins, and strength­en­ing the im­mune sys­tem.

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