The scientific world has very wide areas of interest, from going to outer space to the study of insects. And some scientists even have multiple areas of interest by themselves. Focusing on populations of chimps and baboons, scientists show that your friends’ microbes are keeping you healthy.
As we all know, coming in contact with sick people has a chance to leave us also suffering from the same affliction, depending of course on the ailment.
But there is much more than sickness that can be transmitted through social interactions, and two groups of scientists set out to prove it, one in Kenya, and the other in Tanzania.
What the studies managed to prove was that through social interactions we transmit our microbes from one individual to the other, contributing to our overall health.
A microbiome is the community of microbes living on an individual at one time. The microbiome changes its composition, and for the best, pretty much every time we come in contact with someone else.
This talks about the existence of a pan-microbiome, a community of microbe communities, spanning pretty much all of the microbe communities living on hosts throughout the world.
Previous studies have shown that microbes are indeed passed along through physical contact; for example, sharing a room was proven to help you share most of the same microbes with your roommates.
In an attempt to study the entire lives of individuals in order to fully understand microbiome changes, the two teams of researchers realized that it would have been too invasive to their subjects’ privacy, so they decided to go for chimps and baboons.
So, one of the teams decided to study a family of chimps from Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, while the other looked at two groups of baboons in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park.
The first study proved that microbes are passed along horizontally, instead of vertically, with individuals presenting more microbes from the animals they hung out with, instead of those passed along from mother to child.
The second one showed that individuals in a group will share their own group’s microbiome, despite the fact that multiple groups living in the same area would suggest similar microbiomes for both groups.
These discoveries are important in more than one way.
First of all, they show exactly how important it is to come in contact with people in order to exchange microbes, and keep healthy.
Second of all, it helps maintain diversity in the pan-microbiome, leading to better species immunization and resistance to germs.
Image source: Wikimedia