A Spring Garden of Microbes

The average human is home to more than 100 trillion microbes, often referred to as our “microbial garden.”  While it is easy to feel alarmed at that high number and concerned with hazardous microbes associated with infectious diseases, we are growing in our understanding of the important role of the microbiome. “Understanding Microbes from Gut to Globe,” a five-week course, is your chance to hear about the most important advances on this front from researchers from the Texas Medical Center and Rice University. One of our instructors, Joseph Petrosino, Ph.D., shares some insight on the many benefits of microbes. Dr. Petrosino is director of Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research at Baylor College of Medicine and associate professor in the department of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine.

What do you wish the general public understood about microbes?
Much of the emerging research regarding the human microbiome should help to solidify in people’s minds that by far the majority of microbes we as humans associate with every day are beneficial, even critical, for our existence. Therefore, while it is important to protect ourselves from infection when possible, it is just as important to do what we can to preserve a healthy, diverse microbial “garden” as it were, so that we can enjoy the benefits it provides.

What is an area of potential or a breakthrough that you are particularly excited about?
There are numerous areas of microbiome research that are exciting at the moment—the potential for the use of specific organisms, or communities of organisms to treat certain diseases; the understanding of how the microbiome impacts immune, metabolic, and even cognitive functions; and the use of the microbiome as a diagnostic to predict when disease may be looming.

We have only begun to scratch the surface in terms of understanding which bacteria tend to be associated with health and disease. There will be even more excitement in years to come as we begin to understand which host-microbe interactions are most important, and the mechanisms by which our microbial “garden” contributes to our health and well-being.

Join us for “Understanding Microbes from Gut to Globe,” beginning Monday, March 2.

Kim Espinosa


Kim Espinosa, Marketing Specialist

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