Congratulations, you are a superorganism! An ecosystem exists inside your body, which is home to billions of microscopic organisms living on you and in you. Also known as your microbiome, lots of these bacteria are friendly. They play a huge role in our health. They influence our minds and bodies in all sorts of ways, most of which we still do not fully understand.
Welcome to Symbiosville. Create a character and explore the world. Here you can get to know your tiny residents and learn how to keep them (and you) happy.
What is the microbiome anyway?
As DNA sequencing has gotten faster, easier, and cheaper to run, there has been a burst of microbiome research over the last decade. Scientists now estimate that there are between 5,000-10,000 bacteria species living on or in your body at any one time. In fact, you are home to more bacterial genes than human genes. How does that make you feel?
Our microbiome first develops when we are born. From there, it changes over our first few years based on factors like if we are breastfed and the environment we live in, stabilising by the time we are three. There are a few other things over the course of our lives that change our microbiome, like if you take antibiotics, but otherwise it doesn’t change too much.
Most people hear warning bells when they think about bacteria, but lots of them are good for us. When it comes to our bacterial communities, we are beginning to link changes in the microbiome to a huge array of illnesses, varying from bowel disease to cancer to depression.
Even just in our bodies our microbiome varies greatly, with the bacteria living on our skin, in our mouths, or in our gut all quite different. We are still unclear on how this all works and what it could mean. While it is not as simple as more bacterial species equals better health, it seems that diversity means a more resilient system. For now, one simple way to ensure your microbiome is healthy and happy is to spend time outdoors eating kimchi and patting dogs. Sounds great!
We worked with a group of young people to review Symbiosville. Here’s what they had to say…
I’ve never thought about these bacteria. The game is so detailed, if I take in more fats then there’s a disturbance in my microbiome in my stomach. But I won’t change my way too much. I just keep myself clean and healthy, but I don’t think I will do anything just to take care of my microbiome. — Denish
It’s the first time I heard about this. I found out about the way that exercise impacts us and our health. It’s also important to consider the people around us, and not just our own health. — Abdul
I think it’s important to give information to people to stay alert, what’s good and what’s not good. Sometimes you know what’s good and what’s not good but you do it anyway. It’s just good that people can be informed. — Jacqueline