News FocusMysteries of Development

How Do Microbes Shape Animal Development?

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Science  07 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6137, pp. 1159-1160
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6137.1159

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Animals and plants have always shared space with bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microbes, coevolving through many millennia. In the mid-1800s, however, scientists came to view microbes primarily as enemies and fought hard with antibiotics, vaccines, and good hygiene to get the best of them. But the microscopic world is so intertwined with macroscopic life that the idea that each multicellular animal exists as a separate individual defined by its genome is falling by the wayside. There is a growing realization that microbes and their genes are partners in each animal's journey from egg through adulthood.