Believe it or not the only time you’re completely human is when you’re born, after that microbes set-up home in and on your body to such an extent that by the time you die you’re 90% microbe! This community of organisms is called the Microbiome. But before you panic and reach for the alcohol gel, most of these microbes don’t do you any harm at all, and in fact are vital to keeping you healthy.
The majority of the microbiome lives in your gut, and there are hundreds of different species in there. Things like your diet (what you eat), your environment (where you live) your lifestyle (what you do) and your genetic make up (your genes) all affect which species of microbes live in your gut. They do an important job, without them you couldn’t efficiently take nutrients from your food and would be prey to pathogenic (nasty) microbes that cause diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
The Human Microbiome Project is carrying out research studies to see if changes to the human microbiome are associated with human health and disease. This could lead to the discovery of specific treatments for certain diseases of the gut.
Find out more about how this project is helping to treat patients here: telegraph.co.uk/science
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and Crohn’s disease are two diseases of the gut which can lead to the patient suffering from severe abdominal pain and discomfort. By identifying the key players in the gut microbiome that may be involved, we could be on our way to finding treatments to help millions of people on a global scale overcome these problems.
Pre- and probiotics (food with added good bacteria) have recently been subject to media attention in the hope that they will be able to give a helping hand to the microbes in your gut.
This article shows that probiotics in yoghurt can help reduce IBS symptoms: pubmed.gov but health claims have been dismissed: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8286646.stm so the jury is still out on this one.
What do you think about all this? Could you be involved in finding a cure for IBS in the future? Have a look at the jobs within this area that can be found below to see if any of them interest you.
For some more info on the microbiome have a look at this blog.
- A microbiologist or biotechnologist researching microbes in order to prevent illness and develop new technologies
- A dietician helping people make decisions about their lifestyle and diet to improve their health
- A food technologist developing new food products and ensuring the safety and quality of foods
- A research scientist carrying out investigations and experiments to increase scientific knowledge of the gut microbiome
- A biostatistician providing statistical support to clinical studies
- A biocurator collecting and validating information from biological databases
- A food scientist making sure that all food and drink developed is safe for consumers
- A lecturer in microbiology teaching and carrying out research in universities and some colleges
- A registered nutritionist carrying out research into food as well as providing advice about the effects of food and nutrition on health and wellbeing
- A food standards officer looking after the health of the nation by ensuring all food safety targets are met