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In recent years, the bacterial communities living in and on our bodies have captivated scientists and the public alike. The gut microbiome has been tied to diverse functions and linked to both health and disease. But researchers now know that the gastrointestinal tract is just one of the many microbial homes on the human body. Even sites once considered sterile—such as the eye and the reproductive organs—are revealing themselves to be hotbeds of diversity. Here, The Scientist looks at some of these bacterial communities outside the gut, including the vagina, the penis, the breast, the lung, and more.

Recent Features

The Maternal Microbiome

Moms bombard their babies with bugs both before and after they’re born. By Kerry Grens

Characterizing the “Healthy” Vagina

The overly simplistic notion of a Lactobacillus-dominated vaginal microbiome is giving way to an appreciation of diverse and dynamic bacterial communities. By Jef Akst

Visualizing the Ocular Microbiome

Researchers are beginning to study in depth the largely uncharted territory of the eye’s microbial composition. By

Parsing the Penis Microbiome

Circumcision and sexual activity are but two factors that can influence the bacterial communities that inhabit male genitalia. By Tracy Vence

Breathing Life into Lung Microbiome Research

Although it’s far less populated than the mouth community that helps feed it, researchers increasingly appreciate the role of the lung microbiome in respiratory health. By

Microbes of the Skin

Human skin, the barrier between the body and the outside world, is home to diverse microorganisms, some of which can promote immunity or fight invaders. By Jef Akst

Mining the Mouth’s Many Microbes

The oral cavity contains several distinct and dynamic microbial communities, and some of these commensals may seed the body’s other microbiomes. By Tracy Vence

From the August 2014 issue:

The Body’s Ecosystem

Research on the human microbiome is booming, and scientists have moved from simply taking stock of gut flora to understanding the influence of microbes throughout the body.


Other microbiome news:

The Necrobiome

Mouth Microbe Turns Carcinogenic

Circumcision Alters the Penis Microbiome

Cystic Fibrosis Alters Microbiome?

Bacterial Sentinels of Noses

Microbiome Changes During Pregnancy

Microbial Menagerie

Opinion: Who Are We Really?

Q&A: Preserving The Body's Bugs