Firmicute helps us to digest fat that our bodies need for energy and are among the most common microbes in our gut. Although an oversupply of firmicutes has been linked to a higher risk of obesity, historically these bacteria helped early Europeans survive harsh winters with barely a wooly mammoth in sight. Now that we inhabit less challenging environments, an imbalance of too many Firmicutes in relation to another common gut microbe, Bacteroidetes, may be associated with obesity. However, having more Firmicutes than Bacteroidetes in the vagina is correlated with decreased risk of bacterial vaginosis. Some well-known Firmicutes are the pathogens behind diseases such as botulism and anthrax, but the vast majority are both completely harmless and necessary for normal digestion. Outside the microbiome, this diverse subgroup of bacteria is involved in processes ranging from fermentation of beer and wine, breakdown of milk into yogurt, and even toxic waste clean-up (called “bioremediation”) (Source Ubiome).

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