BACKGROUND: Characterizing the biogeography of the microbiome of healthy humans is essential for understanding microbial associated diseases. Previous studies mainly focused on a single body habitat from a limited set of subjects. Here, we analyzed one of the largest microbiome data sets to date and generated a biogeographical map that annotates the biodiversity, spatial relationships, and temporal stability of 22 habitats from 279 healthy humans.
RESULTS: We identified 929 genera from more than 24 million 16S rRNA gene sequences of 22 habitats, and we provide a baseline of inter-subject variation for healthy adults. The oral habitat has the most stable microbiota with the highest alpha diversity, while the skin and vaginal microbiota are less stable and show lower alpha diversity. The level of biodiversity in one habitat is independent of the biodiversity of other habitats in the same individual. The abundances of a given genus at a body site in which it dominates do not correlate with the abundances at body sites where it is not dominant. Additionally, we observed the human microbiota exhibit both cosmopolitan and endemic features. Finally, comparing datasets of different projects revealed a project-based clustering pattern, emphasizing the significance of standardization of metagenomic studies.
CONCLUSIONS: The data presented here extend the definition of the human microbiome by providing a more complete and accurate picture of human microbiome biogeography, addressing questions best answered by a large data set of subjects and body sites that are deeply sampled by sequencing.