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Microbial to Human Cell Ratio: Just Bragging Rights?

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Microbiota buffs repeat it often these days, proudly reminding the public that the microbial cells associated with humans outnumber their host cells by a ratio of ten-to-one. In his letter in the February 2014 Microbe, however, Judah L. Rosner of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) makes a strong case for this number being shaky or, worse, a “fake” fact that keeps reverberating through the scientific community. Moreover, he points out, the number of bacterial and host cells is in constant flux, making the accurate measure of this ratio a mercurial undertaking.

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