World Microbiome Day 2020

To mark World Microbiome Day, we look at the diversity of the microbiome – celebrating the diversity of the environment, our skin, and human beings.


We often talk about microbial diversity but we don’t always appreciate the scale of it! Let’s take a step back from the skin and look at the whole human body.

Did you know…

  • If your body’s microbes were positioned end-to-end they would circle the Earth 2.5 times?
  • The human body has more microbes than there are stars in the milky way? There are an estimated 39 TRILLION symbiotic microbes living in and on our bodies, outnumbering human cells by about 1.3x!
  • Genetically, we are even more outnumbered by our microbes? The genes of our microbiome outnumber the genes in our genome by about 150:1 (some estimates say this is even higher)

Our microbiomes are as unique and as personal as a fingerprint and researchers have identified > 10,000 microbial species that live in and on the human body.

World Microbiome Day ‘Microbiome in Numbers’ resource, 2020
Sender, Fuchs and Milo, 2016 (published in PLOS Biology)


It wouldn’t be the week of World Microbiome Day without us taking the time to talk about the skin & its microbial diversity!

Did you know…?

  • It is thought that 90% of disease can be linked in some way back to the health of the microbiome. The skin is no exception
  • While our skin is the largest human organ by area, it home to less than 0.5% of our microbiome. This is still 180 BILLION microbes which are involved in human health
  • Indeed, >1,000 species of skin bacteria have been identified
  • The outer surface of our skin is shed at a phenomenal rate of 200 million cells per hour, meaning almost 5 billion per day. The physical and chemical features of the skin selects for a unique set of microbes adapted to this environment

World Microbiome Day resources, 2020


We love to talk about the microbiome of the human body, but what about the microbes that inhabit the earth alongside us.

Did you know…?

  • Bacteria in soil are the main drivers of nutrient cycles. In fact, soil carries about 50% of all living organisms on the planet and, as such, is an important reservoir of biodiversity. Soil microbes differ enormously from region to region
  • Plants don’t have immune systems so actively recruit microbes that help them against pathogens and nutrient extraction
  • Certain bacteria have also been shown in lab experiments to make plants more resilient against drought, head stress, plant disease and salinity
  • The marine microbiome is one of the largest microbiomes on the planet and its microbes supply more than half the world’s oxygen! Billions of microbes can be found in a single liter of ocean water

‘World Microbiome Day ‘Microbiome in Numbers’ resource, 2020
National Geographic: January 2020 edition
Schmidt, 2020 (published in Nature Biotechnology)

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