You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

Health

Advertisement
Courtesy photos Belly Button Biodiversity
Among your skin’s true warrior clans is Bacillus subtilis, which can kill other bacteria and even foot fungi, also found on belly buttons.

Your belly button full of biodiversity

NC scientists study bacteria found on navels

Staphylococcus epidermidis can be a pathogen. Yet on your skin, it’s far more likely to be preventing invasion by other pathogens, found on belly buttons.

If you were told you had an ecosystem living in your belly button, it might come as a bit of shock.

The Belly Button Biodiversity project has set out to catalog just what’s living inside the navel.

The project, overseen by scientists from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, has taken a sampling of belly button swabs from themselves, as well as students, science bloggers and others.

The BBB scientists want to strike down the “bad bacteria” stereotype and teach the world that many bacteria are harmless, helpful and often just hanging around, mooching off your body. The navel is an ideal place for bacteria to thrive because it’s isolated and most people don’t bother to wash it.

One question the BBB group has asked is: Do the bacteria differ from person to person?

The scientists grew the bacteria from hundreds of swab samples and found that most people’s belly button ecosystems are unique. They found 2,368 types of bacteria, with 2,188 present on fewer than 10 percent of the samples.

Several of BBB’s samples are posted on the Web site www.wildlifeofyourbody.org. They include a bacillus that produces antibiotic compounds that can kill other bacteria as well as foot fungi, and a type of clostridial bacterium. The latter’s diverse family includes botulism and gangrene bacteria, along with many harmless bugs.

Advertisement