About the Human Microbiome
The human microbiome is comprised of billions of microorganisms that live on and within the human body. These microorganisms include bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists, and viruses. Known locations on and within the body where these microorganisms are present include the gut, skin, lungs, saliva, oral mucosa, conjunctiva, brain, biliary tract, mammary glands, placenta, seminal fluid, uterus, and ovarian follicles.
Roughly speaking, the microbiome is considered to be comprised of “non-human” cells. It is estimated that there are more of these cells on and within the human body than so-called “human cells.” Given the microbiome’s importance in maintaining human health, and the vast depths of its complexity, it is unclear whether the “human” vs. “non-human” distinction is meaningful. Due to the close relationship between the human body and its microbiome, many consider the human body to actually be a “supraorganism” comprised of what has traditionally be considered “human” along with its microbiome.
While the microbiome plays a major role in maintaining human health, other components and features of the microbiome can have no effect on health, and in some cases, can actually cause or exacerbate disease. In particular, the gut microbiome appears to play a particularly important role in human health and disease.
Recent developments in therapeutic treatments, such as fecal microbiota transplant (“FMT”), aimed at healing the gut microbiome have sparked hope that some diseases with an associated gut dysbiosis (microbiome imbalance) may be susceptible to such treatments.
The list of diseases that are believed to be associated with an imbalance in the gut microbiome and consequently may be subject to new microbiome targeted therapies is exceedingly large (and constantly growing) and includes:
Antibiotic-resistant organisms, such as Clostridioides difficile infection (it has already been established that FMT has a tremendous success rate in clearing C. diff infections)
Inflammatory bowel disease
Liver disease (primary sclerosing cholangitis)
Autism spectrum disorder
Urinary tract infections
Type 1 diabetes