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Stanford Medicine

Microbiology, Research, Science

Naval gazing: Belly Button Biodiversity project identifies thousands of bacteria species

For many of us, questions about our belly buttons rarely go beyond: Innie or outie? But a team of North Carolina-based researchers is looking past what the shape of our navel may indicate and examining the species of bacteria residing in it. Their work may help us better understand the biodiversity present on the human body and if these bacterial communities are helpful or harmful.

As part of the Belly Button Biodiversity (BBB) project, researchers recruited a group of individuals, swabbed their navels and analyzed all the various bacterial species of each sample. Findings published recently in PLoS One show that the team identified 2,368 bacterial species, 1,458 of which may be new to science. According to a post in the Atlantic:

the BBB project could make important progress in understanding how the bacteria that colonize us actually affect our health. Analogous to the parasite Toxoplasmosis gondii – which we only recently found out is present in 20-50 percent of our brains, subtly shaping our personalities and maybe even making us try to hurt ourselves — some of these little bacteria that go unnoticed are probably affecting us in ways unknown, good and bad. Ways that we’re currently just chalking up to chance or genetics or God or gluten.

As previously reported on Scope, researchers at Stanford and elsewhere are also engaged in ongoing efforts to determine how microscopic ecosystems that exist in the human body may impact personal health.

Previously: Diverse microbes discovered in healthy lungs shed new light on cystic fibrosis, Cultivating the human microbiome, Contemplating how our human microbiome influences personal health and New York Times explores our amazing microbes
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