Prepare yourself: You are going to take an exciting and rare tour few humans have ever taken before. In fact, it is a grand tour you cannot access through any travel agency—it’s a journey into the human body.
You will be making stops at every place where microorganisms live. They all form what is known as your microbiota.
The first stop could be your skin, the largest organ you have, which covers approximately 1,85 square meters. Then you could travel through your mouth and down your gastrointestinal tract to the colon, where a huge and diverse microbial community exists with more microbes than stars in the Milky Way.
This is the grand tour offered by “The Secret World Inside You”, an exhibition on human microbiota previously displayed at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York, and now at Universum, the Science Museum of Mexico City.
“Your body is teeming with bacteria, viruses and other microbes. And that’s a good thing!” a video screen announces at the beginning of the itinerary. Benign microbes vastly outnumber bad ‘bugs’—this is one of the main messages of the exhibition.
The exhibition takes the visitor along a fluid path through a sequence of biological systems, one of them being the immune system. And it tackles such questions as where our microbiota comes from, starting with the first encounters during birth and breastfeeding, to diet and probiotics and prebiotics. It also tackles how microbiota interacts with antibiotics, which destroy bad but also good microbes.
On the itinerary is a sea of tiny suspended lights, standing for the trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microorganisms that, taken together, constitute the human microbiota: a whole secret world living inside of you.
Rather than the usual specimens in glass cases, the exhibition has interactive games, quizzes, animations and compelling visual effects so that everybody visiting can learn while having a good time.
The exhibition can be visited at the current exhibitions room of Universum, the Science Museum of Mexico City, during its 25th anniversary. It will be open from 19th August until 30th December 2017, from Tuesday to Friday 9-18 h; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, 10-18 h.
Cristina Sáez Cristina Saez is a freelance science journalist. She works for several media, for instance the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, where she coordinates the science section, Big Vang; as well as research centres and scientific societies. She has been awarded for her journalistic work, among others, with the Boehringer Ingelheim Award in Medical Journalism 2015. Follow Cristina on Twitter @saez_cristina