Earth Day may be more than a month away, but another, more personal, ecosystem has been shown to also be worth protecting-within our bodies are communities of microbes that affect the behavior of human cells hosting them. These communities, called the "microbiome," is so crucial to our health that some consider it to be a complex "second genome." Understanding the interaction of these microbes among one another and their human hosts has the potential to yield insights into numerous diseases and complex human disorders from obesity to susceptibility to infection. In a new report appearing in the March 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists take an important step toward designing a uniform protocol for microbiome research that ensures proper controls and considerations for variations among people. By doing this, future researchers should be able to better assess how what we ingest, whether drugs or food, affects our bodies.
"While historically pre and probiotics have dominated the microbiome landscape, emerging data from numerous labs as to the impact of dietary interventions and antibiotic exposure will play formative roles in tailoring therapy," said Kjersti M. Aagaard, M.D., Ph.D., from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. "We may find that the answers to our most common and prevalent health and disease states lies not in manipulating the human genome, but rather, in utilizing subtle shifts in diet and components of the diet, efficacy trials in prophylactic or preventative antibiotic therapies, and care attention to the over prescription of steroids and antibiotics."