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The technologies that allowed us to decipher the human genome have revolutionized our ability to delineate the composition and functions of the microbial communities that colonize our bodies and make up our microbiota. Each body habitat, including the skin, nose, mouth, airways, gastrointestinal tract, and vagina, harbors a distinctive community of microbes. Efforts to understand our microbiota and its collection of microbial genes (our microbiome) are changing our views of “self” and deepening our understanding of many normal physiologic, metabolic, and immunologic features and their interpersonal and intrapersonal variations. In addition, this area of research is beginning to provide new insights into diseases not previously known to have microbial “contributors” and is suggesting new strategies for treatment and prevention. Key terms used in the discussion of the human microbiome are defined in Table 86e-1.

TABLE 86e-1Glossary of Terms Used in Discussion of the Human Microbiome

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