Allen-Vercoe, Emma Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Last reviewed:September 2018
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- Relation of the microbiome to the human body
- Human microbiota composition
- Human microbiota function
- Conceptualizing microbiome-related disease
- Microbiota therapeutics
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The collective term for the microorganisms or microbes that inhabit an environment, creating an ecological community or ecosystem; also the collective genetic material of these microorganisms or microbes. The term microbiome has a dual meaning. Under one definition, the microbiome pertains to the totality of microorganisms that are present in a specific environment (including the human body; Fig. 1). When used in this sense, microbiome is meant as a combination of the "micro-" prefix (connoting microbes) and the word "biome" (community). The terms microbiota, microbial cargo, and microbial flora are synonymous with microbiome and are often used interchangeably with it. Under its second definition, the microbiome refers to the collective genetic material in a microbial environment; that is, the genetic material contained within the microbiota. In this sense, the word microbiome is a genomic term. When used in that context, the human microbiome is a counterpart to the human genome. In fact, because the number of microbes in the human body slightly exceeds the number of human cells, the diversity of nonhuman genetic material in human bodies exceeds the human share. See also: Ecological communities; Ecosystem; Genomics; Human genome; Microbial ecology; Microbial interactions; Microbiology; Microbiota (human)
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