40 years ago, Woese and Fox described the tripartite structure of the tree of life as they discovered the third domain of life: the archaea. Although they are prokaryotes like bacteria, archaea possess a fundamentally different biology. For a long time, they have been considered as ancient, extremophilic microorganisms, but their picture is about to change.
The human body is submersed in trillions of microorganisms, which impact human health. The microbiome is not only composed of bacteria, but also contains small eukaryotes, fungi, viruses – and archaea. Archaea are prokaryotes like bacteria, but possess a fundamentally different biology.
Although they compromise a substantial part of the human microbiome (up to 10% on skin and in gut), and can even outnumber the most abundant bacterial species, the presence and importance of human archaea is constantly neglected (not a single archaeal pathogen has been identified) or overlooked due to methodological reasons.
Our human archaeome research is dedicated to these neglected components of the human archaeome, and we are interested to understand their diversity, abundance and impact on human health.