News | February 07, 2007

Feb. 8, 2007 - U.S. medical researchers say human skin -- the largest organ in the body -- is a kind of zoo, and some of the inhabitants are quite novel.

Scientists at New York University School of Medicine took swabs from the forearms of six healthy individuals to study the bacterial populations in human skin. They found evidence of 182 species of bacteria, 8 percent of which were unidentified species that had never before been described.

Dr. Martin Blaser, a professor of microbiology and one of the study's authors, said the research is the first to identify the composition of bacterial populations on the skin using a powerful molecular method.

Dr. Zhan Gao, senior research scientist in Blaser's lab, led the research that took more than three years to complete.

Some of the bacteria on the skin appear to be more or less permanent residents; others are transient, according to the investigation that's part of an emerging effort to study human microbial ecology.

The study appears in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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