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Examining the role internal fungi play in our health

As we've reported previously on Scope, cutting-edge techniques and cost-effective methods of rapidly sequencing entire genomes of bacteria and viruses are helping researchers better understand how the microbial communities in and on our bodies influence health.

But bacteria and viruses may not be the only microbes that shape our well-being. New research published in Science offers additional insight into how internal fungi have an impact on health. The findings (subscription required) show a signaling molecule involved in antifungal immunity could contribute to irritable bowel syndrome.

A post today on Wired Science offers a closer look at the study and the role fungi may play in our personal health. Brandon Keim writes:

Fungi are the latest addition to human menagerie, joining bacteria and viruses in forming the teeming, biological kingdom-spanning superorganisms of our bodies.

"We were all fascinated with the diversity and sheer mass of microorganisms that live inside our intestines," said immunobiologist David Underhill of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. "So we started asking: What do we know about fungus in the gut?"

In a June 8 Science study, researchers led by Underhill and postdoctoral student Ilian Iliev link gut fungus to colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.

While the findings may be presently useful to colitis researchers, the implications are sweeping: Scientists might ask the same questions of internal fungi as they do internal bacteria, the importance of which is now a buzzing research frontier.

The full story is worth taking a moment to read.

Previously: Cultivating the human microbiome, Contemplating how our human microbiome influences personal health and The dawn of a new era in microbiology

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