It takes a village (of billions of microbes) to raise a child

Trillions of microorganisms colonize sites all over the human body including the nose, respiratory tract, intestines and skin. Each microbial hotspot hosts a collection of different microorganisms called the microbiota. The microbiota is comprised of many different kinds of bacteria, archaea, eukaryotes and viruses. These microorganisms are much more than passengers in our bodies; instead they interact amongst themselves and with our own human cells to contribute to vital functions such as digestion, immune system education, and to repel invading pathogens.

Depiction of the methods used to study relationship between microbial composition in nose and throat and risk to influenza infection (figure taken from Foxman et al. article). 

One area of microbiota research aims to understand how changes to normal microbial communities in specific sites on the human body affect rates of infection with pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi. In the article by Foxman et al., the researchers explored how changes to the nose and throat microbiome in humans impact influenza virus infection (think flu). They discovered that bacterial communities in the nose and throat change as the human host ages. Moreover, they also found that young children have less stable microbial communities and appear more likely to acquire influenza.

The study by Foxman et al. provides a glimpse into the complicated role our microbial communities play in protecting us from disease. As teams of scientists around the world work towards a universal influenza vaccine, other groups are learning how the microbiome could be used to protect from infection. Both groups will be instrumental in advancing this research and improving human health. 

Summary written by: Emma Finlayson-Trick

To read the full article, please click the following link:

The respiratory microbiome and susceptibility to influenza virus infection

Kyu Han Lee, Aubree Gordon, Kerby Shedden, Guillermina Kuan, Sophia Ng, Angel Balmaseda, Betsy Foxman

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