Until now, science has identified three types of microbes living inside of us: bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. Scientists at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris think there's a fourth one that's been living there all along — it just hasn't been identified.
PHOTO BREAK: 10 flu-fighting foods
While analyzing microbiome samples (microbes from people's guts) the scientists recovered about 230,000 DNA sequences. When they dug deep into those sequences, they found some that had "just 60 percent or less of its identity with any known gene sequences." That difference could be enough to warrant giving these sequences their own identity.
Scientists have years of research ahead of them before they can declare there's definitely a fourth living organism swimming inside our guts.
What does it matter if something that's been living inside of us all along gets a new name? Well, naming gut microbes is just the first step of understanding gut microbes, and knowing more about them may help researchers pinpoint how to keep them healthy.
Scientists are finding links between what's in the gut and chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. There is some evidence that gut bacteria may be linked to food allergies. Researchers are currently studying how manipulating gut bacteria could possibly cure some diseases or cure obesity. The more scientists know about the things that are alive and living inside of us, the better they'll be able to figure out if chronic conditions, health issues and diseases can be relieved or cured by manipulating what's in our guts.