Changing the Course of Disease One Microbiome at a Time
The human body is host to numerous complex microbial communities. Together, these communities make up the human microbiome (the genetic material of all the microbes—bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses—that live on and inside our bodies). These microbes and their dynamic interactions with each other—and with their human hosts—play critical roles in human development and health.
While most bacteria within the microbiome are beneficial, they can also contribute to disease, both as pathogens and as reservoirs of antibiotic resistance and virulent genes. When these microbial communities become out of sync with their host, they can also cause chronic inflammatory diseases.
As Canada Research Chair in Interdisciplinary Microbiome Research, Dr. Michael Surette is shedding light on why some microbes keep us healthy while others cause illness. He and his research team are investigating the role microbes play in chronic diseases, how the microbiome develops and changes over our lifespan, and how these changes affect our susceptibility to disease.
Surette and his team are combining culture-enriched molecular profiling with state-of-the-art genome sequencing to regularly grow more than 99.9 per cent of bacterial populations in the microbiome. This particular process typically recovers two to three times the diversity of bacteria that molecular profiling alone would do.
Ultimately, by revealing more about the beneficial properties of the human microbiota, Surette’s research could lead to new microbiome-derived therapies to treat a wide range of conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome.