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Human Microbial MutualismBY: Divya Narayan | Category: Biology | Submitted: 2016-06-03 03:41:55
Article Summary: "Mutualism is the mutually-beneficial association between two organisms. In the human body, mutualism is seen as a result of resident microbiota performing various functions in specific parts of the body where they are localized and undergo colonization. .."
HUMAN MICROBIAL MUTUALISM
The human microbiota comprises of the aggregate of microorganisms, which colonize various parts of the body. Microbiological studies have found that different groups of microorganisms perform exactly the same metabolic processes in each individual. 1
The indigenous group of organisms normally present at a particular given anatomical site is known as indigenous microbiota. 2
Certain areas of the body are more densely colonized by microorganisms than others. This phenomenon is known as 'tissue specificity'. The reasons for tissue specificity are - 2
1. Tissue tropism - Availability of specific nutrients and optimal conditions for survival in certain parts of the body encourages microorganisms to colonize and establish microbiota in that region
2. Specific adherence - The microbial cell contains certain components known as ligands or adhesion components which help in binding with microbial cell receptors.
3. Biofilm formation - Biofilm is the adherence of microorganisms to a cellular surface and in turn to one another so as to form a film or layer of colonized microorganisms, and enclosed within a matrix of extracellular polymeric substance (EPS). 3
Before birth, the foetus exists in a completely sterile environment. However, the processes of parturition as well as lactation mean that microbiota get transferred on to the neonatal system, and microbial colonization begins. This results in the establishment of normal or indigenous microbiota in the neonatal system in a period of about 48 hours. 2
What is mutualism?
Symbiosis is the close and long-term association of two or more organisms, which can be - 4
- Parasitism - The parasite derives its nutritional benefits from the host organism.
- Commensalism - One organism benefits and other organism is unaffected by this association
- Mutualism - A mutually beneficial association
Mutualistic association of microbiota in each part of the body is as follows
- Scalp - Fungi are normally found on the human scalp. This is known as Mycobiome. Normally occurring fungi provide protection to the scalp against pathogenic infections. 5 In turn, the fungi utilize the conditions in the scalp for their own growth and survival. In a healthy scalp, fungal species of Coniochaeta, Cryptococcus (non-pathogenic), Didymella, Rhodotorula, have been found in greater frequencies. 6
- Skin - Normal skin microbiota have been thought to be commensal until now. However, emerging evidence states that bacteria present on the surface of the skin may in fact be associated with host defence mechanism. For example, Gram positive Staphylococcus epidermidis as well as other mutuals. However, it is to be noted that the same bacteria ma transform from mutual to commensal to parasitic depending upon the environmental conditions. It has been found that strains of S. epidermidis produce lantibiotics or bacteriocins (lanthionine containing anti-bacterial peptides). These peptides have been found to display toxic effects against pathogenic microorganisms such as Staphylococcus aureus and Group A Streptococcus (GAS). The presence of S. epidermidis also encourages the production of the body's own immune responses (antimicrobial molecules). Conversely, usage of topic antibiotics may eliminate presence of S. epidermidis from the skin surface which may have an adverse impact on the host immune responses. 7
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is an opportunistic microorganism which can display skin protective effects. It produces pseudomonic acid (an antimicrobial component) that works against infections caused by staphylococcal and streptococcal organisms. It also displays antimicrobial activity against Candida krusei, Candida albicans, Torulopsis glabrata, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and Aspergillus fumigatus. 8
- Oral cavity - Over 700 species of microorganisms have been identified in healthy oral cavity. Some of the species are - Streptococcus, Actinomyces, Veillonella, Fusobacterium, Porphromonas, Prevotella, Treponema, Nisseria, Haemophilis, Eubacteria, Lactobacterium, Capnocytophaga, Eikenella, Leptotrichia, Peptostreptococcus, Staphylococcus , and Propionibacterium. These bacteria maintain a mutualistic association with the host organism. They do not allow pathogens to adhere to surfaces inside the oral cavity, thereby preventing biofilm formation and infection. 9
- Gut - The gastrointestinal tract comprises of upto 1000 species of bacteria. 10 Gut microorganisms perform a variety of functions in the human body - 11,12,13,14,15
Microbiota existence has been found in other parts of the body such as the conjunctiva, and the respiratory tract. However, no mutualistic association has been exhibited by microorganisms present in these parts.
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About Author / Additional Info:
I am a post-graduate in Biochemistry from the University of Mumbai
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