Q&A: Medicinal microbiota

Two microbiologists speculate about the possibilities for developing therapeutics that affect human microbial communities

Hannah Waters
Apr 12, 2011
The human microbiota -- the communities of commensal bacteria that live in our gut, mouth, and on our skin -- have recently been hailed as a linkurl:forgotten organ,;http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/v7/n7/full/7400731.html and praised for the positive impact they have on our health. Recent research has suggested that the 1014 or so organisms, representing more than linkurl:500 species,;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15894105 influence ailments such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, asthma and type I diabetes. The Scientist spoke with linkurl:Justin Sonnenburg;http://med.stanford.edu/profiles/microimmuno/researcher/Justin_Sonnenburg/ and linkurl:Michael Fischbach,;http://www.fischbachgroup.org/ microbiologists from Stanford University and the University of California San Francisco respectively, about potential therapeutics that target the human microbiota, the subject of a perspective linkurl:piece;http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/3/78/78ps12.abstract they authored, published today (April 13) in Science Translational Medicine.The Scientist: What is the fundamental idea behind using microbiota in medicine?
Michael Fischbach (left) and Justin Sonnenburg
Images: Courtesy of respective subjects
Justin Sonnenburg: The microbiota appear to relate to everything. This isn't...
Michael FischbachTSJSMFTS
Bacteroides fragilis, an obligate gut microbe
Image: CDC
JSMFJ.L. Sonnenburg and M.A. Fischbach, "Community Health Care: Therapeutic Opportunities in the Human Microbiome," Science Translational Medicine, 3(78), doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001626, 2011.

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