It turns out that we also have microbes called archaea living in and on our bodies. They are part of our microbiome (community of microbes living in and on us, which also includes bacteria, viruses, and fungi). Archaea constitute a domain or kingdom of single-celled microorganisms. These microbes are prokaryotes, meaning that they have no cell nucleus or any other membrane-bound organelles in their cells. Archaeal cells have unique properties that separate them from bacteria and eukaryotes. Archaea were initially classified as bacteria and thought to only exist in extreme environments (such as hot springs and salt lakes), and given the name archaebacteria, but this classification is now outdated. We now know that archaea live in less extreme places, including oceans, marshlands, animals, and humans.
So little is known about archaea that not even medical schools discuss this topic. This may be due to the fact that we currently don't know of any archaea that are human pathogens (that is, that cause illness) or parasitic. They are generally viewed as mutuals (the relationship is beneficial to both organisms) or commensals (they benefit, but don't help or harm the other organism). Humans appear to have low levels of archaea, and so far they have been found in the human gut (part of digestion and metabolism), on the skin, and in subgingival dental plaque (and perhaps involved with periodontal disease). But studies rarely look for them. We don't know the importance or roles that they play in our bodies (but there are suspicions), but it turns out that drugs such as statins and the antibiotic metronidazole are eliminating them.
Note that methanogens are archaea that excrete or produce methane as a metabolic byproduct in anoxic (no oxygen) conditions such as the gut. They help digest our food. The species Methanobrevibacter smithii has been shown to be present in up to 95.7% of humans studied, and found to be the most abundant methanogen in the human gut, comprising up to as much as 10% of all anaerobes found in a healthy individual's colon. Anaerobes are organisms that require oxygen-free conditions to live. Some of the June 2015 article (by M. N. Lurie-Weinberger and U. Goph) excerpts from PLOS:
Although they are abundant and even dominant members of animal microbiomes (microbiotas), from sponges and termites to mice and cattle, archaea in our own microbiomes have received much less attention than their bacterial counterparts. The fact that human-associated archaea have been relatively little-studied may be at least partially attributed to the lack of any established archaeal human pathogens. Clinically oriented microbiology courses often do not mention archaea at all, and most medical school and biology students are only aware of archaea as exotic extremophiles that have strange and eukaryotic-like molecular machinery. Since archaea have been known to be associated with the human gut for several decades, one would think that human microbiome studies may unravel new facets of archaea–human interactions... ...continue reading "We Have Archaea In and On Our Bodies"