This NY Times article should interest anyone who takes a wide-angle view of health and disease. It focuses on the "Microbiome:" which is defined as "the totality of microbes, their genetic elements (genomes), and environmental interactions in a defined environment. A defined environment could, for example, be the gut of a human being or a soil sample. Thus, microbiome usually includes microbiota and their complete genetic elements."
Zimmer's article is a fine introduction to this area and is a glimpse into a brave new world which determines how we are well and ill. It is worth reading and rereading. There is lots of basic science here, but also stuff of philosophy. The microbiome is an important terra incognito, the understanding of which may help some of us to lead healthier lives.
This illustration shows the body sites that will be sampled from
volunteers for the Human Microbiome Project, part of the NIH's Roadmap for Medical Research.