Face of Feces - The Human Microbiome
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The Human Microbiome

Various bacteria species

Magnification: 1’500:1

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Artistic coloration of the microbiome present in a healthy human gut, containing billions of intestinal bacteria, including Epulopiscium sp. – the world’s largest bacteria species!

The human gut teems with bacteria: streptococci, staphylococci, enterococci, enterobacteria, mycobacteria, spirochetes, mycoplasma, corynebacteria, clostridia, and lactobacilli. Many of their species are still unknown. They help us digest food and absorb nutrients, or play a role in protection of intestinal walls. Many gut bacteria further regulate weight and ward off autoimmune diseases. In adult humans, the intestinal flora is responsible for up to five percent of the body weight, forming a fragile ecosystem (the human microbiome) which is sensitive to: stress, unhealthy food, alcohol or illness. Under unfavorable circumstances our health is directly affected by bacteria that live inside of us, and as a result we may suffer from: overweight, mood changes or become prone to various diseases. In the central part of the image you can see the world’s largest bacteria – Epulopiscium sp. which spans between 200 – 700 µm, i.e. 350-times bigger than E. coli, or B. subtilis. Epulopiscium was first discovered in 1985 in the intestines of a surgeonfish, where it is only active during the day and believed to control the pH within the gut of its hosts. Because of its huge size, the giant exhibits many unusual characteristics, including a very special ‘rhomboid’ morphology.

Credit: © M Oeggerli 2015, supported by HP Marti, Swiss TPH, Pathology, University Hospital Basel, and School of Life Sciences, FHNW.