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Monday, April 20, 2015

A Microbiome Three-Conference Summary

During the month of March, I've been pleased to cover three great microbiome-related conferences for the Gut Microbiota for Health website. I heard about interesting things happening in the field -- research both deep and broad -- and talked to scientists and clinicians from many different places.

Here are the conferences I attended:

Keystone Symposium - Gut Microbiota Modulation of Host Physiology: The Search for Mechanism

Gut Microbiota for Health World Summit 2015

Experimental Biology 2015

It's hard to summarize the mass of information from these conferences, but here are some of the important messages I heard about gut microbiota:

"Lactobacillus spp Sauerkraut 1" by A doubt - Own work.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

The gut microbiota are constantly changing; in a single person, composition varies from day to day and over the course of the day.

Diet has a huge impact on (a subset of) the microbiota, with possible effects on long-term health; the impact of fibre is among the hottest areas of investigation.

Bacterial viruses (bacteriophages) are an important part of the gut community, and may have a role in diseases like Crohn's and AIDS.

Bacterial composition is often interesting to note, but it's the metabolites the bacteria produce that may be doing the key work in the body.

The immune system is extremely sensitive, responding to slight shifts in the gut community and maybe even suffering long-term 'scarring' from environmental factors.

Clinical trials with therapies (e.g. fecal microbiota transplantation or probiotics) are useful, but it's even more important to investigate mechanisms that are making them work, so we can eventually match therapies to patients with perfect precision.

So far, the established, concrete clinical applications of microbiota research are few (for example, fecal microbiota transplantation for C. difficile), but the intangible clinical applications are many!

I also talk about these three conferences in this podcast interview with the great guys at the American Microbiome Institute.

You can find Storify summaries of the live tweets from Keystone and Experimental Biology here:

Keystone Day 1
Keystone Day 2
Keystone Day 3
Keystone Day 4

Experimental Biology Day 1
Experimental Biology Day 2
Experimental Biology Day 3
Experimental Biology Day 4