4. VIDEO: What is the microbiome?


Video 4: What is the microbiome? (5’44)

Gregor Reid, Professor of Surgery, Microbiology & Immunology, Director of the Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotic Research, Lawson Health Research Institute

The microbiome has been defined as all the microbes in a certain niche. So, that could be bacteria, viruses, fungi, protazoa etc. And also their end products, so their metabolomics. Metabolomics are the metabolites that they produce. The microbiota is simply the microbes. So, people tend to use the two terms kind of for the same effect. There isn't a human on the planet that doesn't have a microbe in it. Walk out into the world, it's a microbial world. You can't escape it; we have to live with it; they are critical to the survival of the planet. And we are just at the very, very surface of beginning to understand their role.


Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, Henry Rutgers Professor of Microbiome and Health, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and of Anthropology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

We are a product of evolution in a bacterial planet. And our own "self" is composed of bacteria as well as Homo Sapiens. So, when you understand that, you start viewing every

single individual, or species, as a composite. So, we are pretty much an ecosystem that can walk.


Rodney Dietert, Emeritus Professor of Immunotoxicology, Cornell University

 We have grown up with our microbes, over many, many generationsand, in fact, we form what's called a symbiotic superorganism, because we do things for each other.

 And those things are very important for the health of the total organism.

 And that's one of the reasons that we actually need our microbes, we need them from the start, near birth, for the rest of our life, because they contribute a great deal

in terms of education for our immune system, and in terms of the metabolism, both of important nutrients that we consume in our food, but also, environmental toxicants

and environmental chemicals and drugs, They play a major role in the metabolis that we have occurring within us.

Anita Kozyrskj, Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta

So, in addition to the gut microbiota, we have nasal microbiota, we have skin microbiota, women have a vaginal microbiota. So, these good bacteria help us maintain our bodily functions and maintain health.


Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, Henry Rutgers Professor of Microbiome and Health, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, and of Anthropology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

 We estimate there are approximately 1000 species in the intestine, approximately 700 in the mouth, approximately 300-400 in the vagina, approximately 700 in the skin.

And, again, the skin is an example of how hard it can be to understand which is ours and which comes from the environment. So, the only way to solve that is really to go to very different environments where people live, sample their skin and see what is common, what kind of bacteria are common. Also, seasonal variations. The skin of people is different throughout the year. Because, sometimes we can get bacteria from flowering flowers, blooming flowers in our skin. You can even tell if the time when that person was sequenced was spring or winter. So, the skin is very complex. But we know we have a microbiome there. We know, more or less, what bacteria are on skin, human skin.They are important for our health. Disruptions in the balance of the skin lead to diseases like acne, or some infections. The communities have to be in balance otherwise, if one of the members of the community overgrows, that leads to an infection. And we have all experienced, sometimes, that kind of problem. When women take antibiotics, very often they get vaginal infections.

So, what happens is, it's not that a pathogen came, it's that, because of the effect of the antibiotics on the bacteria, some resistant (or the fungi) component of that ecosystem overgrows, taking advantage of the knockdown of other populations.

 So, the restoration of the balance brings back health again.

Lesley Page, Visiting Professor of Midwifery, King’s College London

 To know that we have more microbes than human cells is really mind-bending. And, when I read the research, it's so interesting. I can't understand all of it because it's in a particular language, but it just seems to me that it's opened up a world for exploration

that will help us understand things that we haven't understood up until now.

Interviewer: Does it change the way you think about yourself?


Oh, it absolutely makes me change the way I think about myself! You know, I used to be aware that I had organisms on my skin and in my gut and inside me. But, to now think about this "me", which is more microbe than human cells. I don't know, it's as if it connects me to the universe a bit more.


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