Humans are host to an enormous invisible ecosystem of microbes that influence almost every system in the body. The most common microbes that live in or on our bodies are bacteria, archaea, viruses, protozoa and fungi. This intriguing community of microbes are collectively known as our microbiota.
What is the microbiome?
Our microbiota contributes to over fifty percent of our cellular makeup and can influence a wide range of physiological functions including our mood, appetite and immune responses. The collective genetic material of the microbiota, our microbiome, is remarkably dynamic. Our body harbours several niche composites of microbiome ecosystems within the gut, skin, reproductive tract, liver, eyes, mouth, nose and even within our belly button!
Why is microbiome research important?
We know very little about how our microbiome swings the pendulum between health and disease. What we do know is that there is an inextricable link between the diversity and balance of our microbiome and our susceptibility to disease.
The abundance of our thriving beneficial microbes keeps the pathogenic microbes in check and maintains a harmonious balance. However, when pathogenic microbes dominate, this balance is disturbed and we enter a state of dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is associated with several diseases including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and asthma. Our lifestyle choices, our diet, our use of antibiotics and medications and the environment we live in can influence the composition of the microbiome.
Our research is realising the captivating potential of the human microbiome as a novel target for human health. By understanding how over 1 million genes contributed by the human microbiome, together with our 25,000 inherited genes nurture our state of health, we can better improve diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of several diseases.