Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Science Misconceptions About The Human Microbiome

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Medicine, Health, Society

Ed Hessler

The human microbiome has a widespread popularity among researchers and the general public. Claims are often made of its potential therapeutic solutions to what ails us. This essay is aimed at researchers and scientists but some of this creeps into public discourse and you will recognize some of them.

In a perspectives article by Alan W. Walker and Lesley Hoyles in Nature Microbiology twelve misconceptions are examined with an eye to the science. I will list them and if any jump out at you take a look. The original URL is long so as back-up here it is in shortened form. 

The 5 page paper is in a PDF format and there is information about the author's affiliations and a full citation listing. It also includes an illustration on difficulties of establishing causality from correlation based studies.

--Microbiome research is a new field

--Joshua Lederberg coined the term 'microbiome'

--There are 10^12 bacterial cells per gram of human feces

--The human microbiota weighs 1 kg  (2.2 pounds) to 2 kg 4.4 pounds)

--The microbiota outnumbers human cells 10:1

--The microbiota is inherited from the mother at birth

--Most diseases are characterized by a pathobiome

--The Firmicutes: Bacteroidetes ratio is altered in obesity

--The gut microbiome is functionally redundant

--Sequencing is unbiased

--We need standardized methodologies

--Most of the human biome is unculturable


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