Learning to love our bugs

Each of us is a mobile ecosystem teeming with trillions of living organisms. They live on us and inside us, surround us like an invisible cloud, maintain and sustain us, ignore us, occasionally attack and kill us, and, ultimately, define us. The human microbiome is made up of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and the like, and they cover every surface of our bodies.

"These microbiota are mostly in your gut, but also in your mouth, on your skin, in your lungs," says Emory biologist Nicole Gerardo. "They're playing critical roles in how you interact with the environment, how you process food, how you fight off pathogens, how you interact with drugs. Some of our remarkably fertile microbes are identical to those that live in other humans. But many are a distinct reflection of our individual experiences, shaped by who or what we've touched, where we've been, what we've breathed, and what we've consumed. Dr. Gerardo is a faculty member in the PBEE program.

"Research interest in the human microbiome is exploding now," says Gerardo, who gave the introductory presentation at Emory's first microbiome symposium in November 2015. Microbiome research is one of the fastest growing fields in the biomedical arena largely because the tools to do it—such as DNA-sequencing technologies and computational resources—have gotten so good.

The Emory Microbiome Group is thriving, and research studies are taking place across the university.

Other GDBBS faculty members are mentioned in this article. They are:

Dr. Frank Anania (IMP)

Dr. Joanna Goldberg (MMG & PBEE)

Dr. Jennifer Mulle (GMB & PBEE)

Dr. Andrew Neish (IMP)

Dr. Tim Read (MMG & PBEE)

Dr. David Weiss (IMP & MMG)

Dr. Michael Zwick (GMB & PBEE)

Click here to view the full story in Emory Medicine.