From these they identified 182 distinct species, some of which are new to science. Eight to ten months later they retested four subjects and found 65 additional species.
The results appear this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Blaser notes that his research goal is not merely to census our most intimate microscopic companions.
He and other experts want to know whether certain skin microbes are connected to chronic inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis and eczema—which would make the critters our skin's version of a wardrobe malfunction.
David A. Relman is a microbiologist at Stanford University and chief of infectious diseases at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto, California.
"A lot of skin diseases look as if they ought to be caused by an infectious agent," Relman said. "But we don't have an infectious agent" to blame.
Relman suggests that "orchestrated manipulation" of the skin's ecosystem, perhaps with science-based cosmetic products, might someday suppress disease-causing skin bacteria and nurture friendly ones.
"A better understanding of the indigenous microbiota of the human body," he said, "will lead to much more prudent strategies for maintaining and restoring health."
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