Each of us is only half human. The other half is microbial. Trillions of viruses, fungi, bacteria and other microscopic organisms coat our skin and line our vital organs. We depend on these microbial communities, collectively known as our microbiome, to digest food, synthesize vitamins, bolster immune systems and even maintain mental health. This interdependence has given the appearance of beneficial co-evolution, a grand symbiotic relationship between microbe and man that has been millennia in the making. But recent research suggests this relationship is less utopian and more adversarial. Scientists have discovered that hosts starve their microbial denizens of nutrients, essentially enslaving the microbes in their gut so that they are forced to do our bidding. The findings also indicate that the modern diet and overuse of antibiotics could undermine our position as benevolent overlords, putting the odds in favor of the microbes.
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