News

All About the Human Microbiome

“Germaphobes out there, I’ve got to tell you: You’re just covered in microbes. Every inch of your body is completely coated in microorganisms”

That is how ISB microbiome researcher Dr. Sean Gibbons kicked off a recent Facebook Live Q&A.

Gibbons, who joined ISB as Washington Research Foundation Distinguished Investigator and assistant professor in June 2018 and who runs the Gibbons Lab, explained the nascent field of microbiome research.

“We’ve only really come to appreciate (the human microbiome) in the last couple of decades,” Gibbons said. “My lab studies the ecology and evolution of these microbial communities and how they work, how they assemble, who interacts with whom — we try to understand the basic ground rules underlying the communities.”

Gibbons’ discussion ranged from general questions  (What is it the human microbiome? Can we change it? What does a healthy one look like?) to factors that can affect the microbiome (Should I use Purell? Can I formula-feed my kids? What do antibiotics do to my microbiome?) to exciting and emerging developments in the field (Is there a connection between the microbiome and cancer? What is a fecal transplant? Where will microbiome research go in the next decade?).

Are you curious about the human microbiome? You can watch Gibbons’ answers to individual questions below. NOTE: If you’re watching with no sound, enable captions with the “CC” button.

What is the microbiome, and where do microbes live on our bodies?

Length: 2 minutes, 31 seconds

What does a healthy gut microbiome look like?

Length: 2 minutes 51 seconds

Can I change my microbiome?

Length: 3 minutes, 10 seconds

Should I be using Purell?

Length: 2 minutes, 33 seconds

I heard antibiotics are bad for our microbiome. Is that true, and what should I do when they are prescribed?

Length: 4 minutes, 47 seconds

What is a fecal transplant? Is it as gross as it sounds?

Length: 4 minutes, 43 seconds

Does my microbiome make me fat?

Length: 2 minutes, 20 seconds

Is there a connection between the microbiome and cancer or other diseases?

Length: 4 minutes, 21 seconds

Is it OK to formula-feed my kids?

Length: 4 minutes, 22 seconds

Where do you think microbiome research will be in the next five to 10 years?

Length: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

Recent Articles

  • Dr. Christian Diener, postdoc in ISB's Gibbons Lab.

    New Modeling Tool Allows Microbiome Researchers to Map Community Ecology to Ecosystem Function

    A promising new open-source metabolic modeling tool provides microbiome researchers a path forward in predicting ecosystem function from community structure. News of the software package, called MICOM, was developed in part by researchers in ISB’s Gibbons Lab, and its uses were published in the journal mSystems.

  • Using Blood to Predict Gut Microbiome Diversity

    Predicting the alpha diversity of an individual’s gut microbiome is possible by examining metabolites in the blood. The robust relationship between host metabolome and gut microbiome diversity opens the door for a fast, cheap and reliable blood test to identify individuals with low gut diversity.

  • Use and abuse of correlations

    We recently published a Perspective Article in the ISME Journal on the ‘Use and abuse of correlation analyses in microbial ecology.’ In this piece, we highlight the pitfalls of inferring microbe-microbe interactions from sequencing data. The lead author, Alex Carr, wrote a blog post titled ‘Inferring microbial interactions from relative abundance: not as easy as you would think’ detailing his inspiration for writing this perspective. You can check out the…