Trillions of bacteria live inside the human body, making up mini-ecosystems --microbiomes-- in places like the mouth, gut, and skin. Most of these bacteria are beneficial, helping humans to make or digest various chemicals. Research has increasingly shown that these microbes play a large role in promoting human health.
Research at the University of Texas suggests that more different kinds of bacteria may be better, at least in the gut. Diversity in the gut microbiome has been linked with the immune system’s ability to respond to cancer. In a study led by Dr. Jennifer Wargo, over 200 metastatic melanoma patients were treated with a therapy called checkpoint blockade, which prevents tumor cells from shutting down the immune response. Patients who had a successful response to the treatment tended to have a greater amount of diversity in their gut microbiome. They were also more likely to host certain types of bacteria, such as Faecalibacterium, Ruminococcaceae, and Clostridiales.