Archaea associated with human surfaces: not to be underestimated

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Over 40 years ago, Carl Woese and his colleagues discovered the existence of two distinctly different groups of prokaryotes—Bacteria and Archaea. In the meantime, extensive research revealed that several hundred of bacterial species are intensely associated with humans' health and disease. Archaea, originally identified and described to occur mainly in extreme environments, have been shown to be ubiquitous and to appear frequently and in high numbers as part of human microbiota in recent years. Despite the improvement in methodologies leading to increased detection, archaea are often still not considered in many studies focusing on the interdependency between members of the microbiota and components of the human immune system. As a consequence, the knowledge on functional role(s) of archaeal species within the human body is mainly limited to their contribution to nutrient degradation in the intestine, and evidence for immunogenic properties of archaea as part of the human microbiota is generally rare. In this review, the current knowledge of human mucosa-associated archaeal species, their interaction with the human immune system and their potential contribution to humans' health and disease will be discussed.

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