Not to gross you out, but your belly button is crawling with bacteria — billions of them, in all shapes, sizes and appetites.
That’s a good thing, a group of North Carolina researchers says after studying more than 500 belly-button swabs, some from their own navels.
Most of the tiny critters in that “jungle of microbial diversity” are harmless, the researchers say, and lots of them actually kill off their disease-causing cousins.
Not just numerous, they also are diverse: 2,368 different types identified so far, with everybody’s belly button carrying a different cast of characters.
Those are among findings of the Belly Button Biodiversity Project, an effort by researchers at North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, both in Raleigh.
Magnified mug shots of the bacteria are posted on the project’s website, wildlifeof yourbody.org — along with an article detailing the likely critters crawling on pop superstar Lady Gaga.
“Your belly button is a great place to grow up if you’re a bacterium,” said cardiologist Dr. Tom Kottke at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. “It’s warm, dark and moist — a perfect home.”
Too many people think all bacteria are bad, said lead researcher Jiri Hulcr. The Belly Button Project is out to “educate the public about the role bacteria play in our world. Bacteria are always present on our skin and in our bodies.”
They live in and on every square inch of you, and for the most part it’s a win-win relationship — just you and 100 trillion very close friends, about 10 times the number of cells that make up your body.
The one-celled creatures — so tiny that you’d have to stack up 25,000 or so to equal an inch.