Microbiome Research using Next Generation Sequencing

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Professor Joseph F Petrosino, Chief Scientific Officer at Metanome and Director of the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research at Baylor College of Medicine, discusses how the Human Microbiome Project aims to characterize the human microbiome and analyze its role in human health and disease.

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Using the Gut Microbiome to Improve Health

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Scientists analyzing the gut microbiome have found groups of bacteria that are either abundant or nearly absent – a finding that could aid in coming up with ways to intervene to improve a person’s health. Though there is gradual variation in the abundance of much of gut bacteria, the scientists said in this week’s issue of the journal Nature Communications, specific bacterial groups exist in stable configurations that are associated with a person’s physiology and health.

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Conducting a Microbiome Study

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Human microbiome research is an actively developing area of inquiry, with ramifications for our lifestyles, our interactions with microbes, and how we treat disease. Advances depend on carefully executed, controlled, and reproducible studies. Here, we provide a Primer for researchers from diverse disciplines interested in conducting microbiome research. We discuss factors to be considered in the design, execution, and data analysis of microbiome studies. These recommendations should help researchers to enter and contribute to this rapidly developing field.

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Germs are us

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Helicobacter pylori may be the most successful pathogen in human history. While not as deadly as the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, cholera, and the plague, it infects more people than all the others combined. H. pylori, which migrated out of Africa along with our ancestors, has been intertwined with our species for at least two hundred thousand years. Although the bacterium occupies half the stomachs on earth, its role in our lives was never clear. Then, in 1982, to the astonishment of the medical world, two scientists, Barry Marshall and J. Robin Warren, discovered that H. pylori is the principal cause of gastritis and peptic ulcers; it has since been associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer as well. Until that discovery, for which the men shared a Nobel Prize, in 2005, stress, not an infection, was assumed to be the major cause of peptic ulcers.

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The Human Gut Microbiome as a Screening Tool for Colorectal Cancer

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Recent studies have suggested that the gut microbiome may be an important factor in the development of colorectal cancer. Abnormalities in the gut microbiome have been reported in patients with colorectal cancer; however, this microbial community has not been explored as a potential screen for early-stage disease. We characterized the gut microbiome in patients from three clinical groups representing the stages of colorectal cancer development: healthy, adenoma, and carcinoma. Analysis of the gut microbiome from stool samples revealed both an enrichment and depletion of several bacterial populations associated with adenomas and carcinomas.

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What’s in a Kiss?

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A passionate kiss that lasts more than 10 seconds transfers about 80 million bacteria, researchers say. The evidence, published in the journal Microbiome, comes from 21 couples, ages 17 to 45 who made out for science.

Listen to Remco Kort, a microbiologist at the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research in Amsterdam and lead author of the study as he speaks with NPR’s Rob Stein in this recent interview.

“It is provocative to think that we can perhaps donate beneficial microbes by an ‘oral microbiome transplant,’ ” says Joseph Petrosino, Ph.D., Metanome Founder and Chief Scientific Officer and microbiologist at the Baylor College of Medicine.

 

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