Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Your Healthy Bacteria Are as Individual as You Are

Study finds helpful microbial communities vary person to person

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 16, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to the communities of helpful bacteria living in and on people, "one-size-fits-all" is definitely not the rule, a new study finds.

A team at the University of Michigan found wide variation in the types of bacteria that healthy people have in their digestive tracts and elsewhere, suggesting that beneficial communities of microbes come in many different forms.

Each person has a unique collection of bacterial communities arising from their life history, diet, medication use and environmental exposures, the researchers said. Collectively, these communities are known as the "microbiome."

"What our data shows is that just because a person's microbiome is different doesn't make it unhealthy," study author Patrick Schloss, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the university's medical school, said in a school news release. He said the researchers also "demonstrates there's more to learn about the factors that cause one's microbiome to change."

Schloss' team analyzed bacteria samples from nearly 300 healthy adults. The samples were gathered from 18 places on the body, including the mouth, nose, gut, behind each ear, and inside each elbow.

The researchers found that the type of community in one location can predict the type of community in another location, according to the study published April 16 in the journal Nature.

"What was unexpected was that it was possible to predict the type of community a person had in their gastrointestinal track based on the community in their mouth," Schloss said. "This was possible even though the types of bacteria are very different in the two sites."

The mix of microbes living in certain locations can even reveal some aspects of a person's life history. For example, level of education was linked with vaginal community type, the team found, and whether a person was breast-fed was associated with their gut community type. Gender also influenced several types of community types.

The researchers did not find a link between changes in community type and any changes in a person's health.

The findings might have practical applications sometime in the future, Schloss said.

"Understanding the diversity of community types and the mechanisms that result in an individual having a particular type or changing types will allow us to use their community type to assess disease risk and to personalize their medical care," he explained.

Today on WebMD

man holding his stomach
Get the facts on common problems.
blueberries in a palm
Best and worst foods.
woman shopping
Learn what foods to avoid.
fresh and dried plums
Will it help constipation?
diverticuliltis illustration
couple eating at cafe
sick child
Woman blowing bubble gum

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Woman with crohns in pain
Woman with stomach pain
diet for diverticulitis
what causes diarrhea