The blood that flows perpetually through our veins and arteries performs numerous functions essential to our survival. Besides distributing oxygen, this vast circulatory system facilitates nutrient transport, deters infection and dispenses heat throughout our bodies. Since human blood has traditionally been considered to be an entirely sterile environment, comprising only blood-cells, platelets and plasma, the detection of microbes in blood was consistently interpreted as an indication of infection. However, although a contentious concept, evidence for the existence of a healthy human blood-microbiome is steadily accumulating. While the origins, identities and functions of these unanticipated micro-organisms remain to be elucidated, information on blood-borne microbial phylogeny is gradually increasing. Given recent advances in microbial-hematology, we review current literature concerning the composition and origin of the human blood-microbiome, focusing on bacteria and their role in the configuration of both the diseased and healthy human blood-microbiomes. Specifically, we explore the ways in which dysbiosis in the supposedly innocuous blood-borne bacterial microbiome may stimulate pathogenesis. In addition to exploring the relationship between blood-borne bacteria and the development of complex disorders, we also address the matter of contamination, citing the influence of contaminants on the interpretation of blood-derived microbial datasets and urging the routine analysis of laboratory controls to ascertain the taxonomic and metabolic characteristics of environmentally-derived contaminant-taxa.
Keywords: bacteria; contamination; disease; dysbiosis; human blood microbiome.