The human microbiome: our second genome

Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2012:13:151-70. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genom-090711-163814. Epub 2012 Jun 6.


The human genome has been referred to as the blueprint of human biology. In this review we consider an essential but largely ignored overlay to that blueprint, the human microbiome, which is composed of those microbes that live in and on our bodies. The human microbiome is a source of genetic diversity, a modifier of disease, an essential component of immunity, and a functional entity that influences metabolism and modulates drug interactions. Characterization and analysis of the human microbiome have been greatly catalyzed by advances in genomic technologies. We discuss how these technologies have shaped this emerging field of study and advanced our understanding of the human microbiome. We also identify future challenges, many of which are common to human genetic studies, and predict that in the future, analyzing genetic variation and risk of human disease will sometimes necessitate the integration of human and microbial genomic data sets.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Metagenome*
  • Molecular Typing
  • Mouth / microbiology
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Skin / microbiology
  • Urogenital System / microbiology