2014, another year of key events and discoveries in gut microbiota field

It might sound like a cliché, but the truth is that 2014 has already gone by in the blink of an eye, and soon we will be toasting, celebrating New Year’s Eve and making resolutions for the next year. Before all that happens, we would like to propose you to take a look at this soon-to-end year, microbiotally speaking.

To start with, experts from all over the world met at the 2014 edition of the Gut Microbiota for Health World Summit, jointly organised by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) and the Gut Microbiota and Health Section of the European Society for Neurogastroenterology and Motility (ESNM). It was held in Miami in March, and for two days, experts from different countries debated issues mainly related to how the microbiota can be modulated – through diet, probiotics or antibiotic therapy – in order to improve people’s health and quality of life.

It was not the only meeting focused on microbiota this year. From the United States to Europe, numerous congresses and conferences have been held on the subject. In September, the Harvard Medical School, in Boston, held a symposium called “Gut Microbiota, Probiotics and Their Impact throughout the Lifespan”. The aim was to provide an overview of the latest scientific evidence on gut microbiota and probiotics and their importance from pregnancy to adulthood. It is also worth mentioning that the annual meeting of United European Gastroenterology, held in October, included microbiota topics in different parts of its official program. Read more

The American Microbiome Institute, a new public and non-profit institution focused on gut microbiota research and education


“Our mission is to make tremendous improvements to human health through microbiome science”, states the front page of the new American Microbiome Institute’s website.  Established in 2013, it is a non-profit organization aimed at advancing science and education related to microbiomes. Although they have ‘American’ in their name, they pursue establishing cooperation ties with researchers in Europe.

Companies, academic institutions, foundations and hospitals are invited to collaborate in this field, under the coordination of the American Microbiome Institute (AMI). The Institute already has three ongoing projects: the first is dedicated to the supervision of quality in microbiome research studies; the second one is the American Microbiome Institute Centre for Advanced Research, founded and run by the AMI, which supports complete research projects, from study design to data analysis.

“We’d like to create a core facility where other researchers can come and consult and also maybe even do the analysis within our facility”, William Bonificio, co-founder and co-CEO of the AMI explained to our colleague Kristina Campbell from Gut Microbiota for Health Experts Exchange platform. Furthermore, they also expect to create a database that keeps track of biological samples used in research. Read more

Seth Bordenstein, Joël Doré, Paul Enck: a three-voice debate about gut microbiota research


Every technical revolution generates a first wave of enthusiasm and everyone is willing to “play” with the new tool, hoping to find the Holy Grail. That had been already observed when Watson and Crick discovered DNA. Where are we, after the recent revolution of the discovery that we are made of one part of human cells and nine parts of microbial cells? How does this notion of a so-called new/neglected “organ” is impacting science and medical practice?

With more than 2000 scientific publications issued in little over ten years, no one can doubt that gut microbiota is a booming area of research. However, there is an existing dose of skepticism around some of the microbiota-related studies results. While from an epistemological perspective some experts believe that this is just part of the normal evolution of a new science or area of research, others believe that the news is overpromising or just exaggerating the results. The potential areas of interest around the science of microbiota are increasing and, at the same time, there are some pragmatic questions around how (and when) these discoveries would impact everyday practice. As a platform dedicated to sharing information about gut microbiota, we have decided to address this topic and, in order to do so, we interviewed three experts from this field who have different views.

Seth R. Bordenstein, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at Vanderbilt University, Nashville. He is a scientist, educator, communicator and consultant. This is his blog, and you can also follow him on Twitter.

Joël Doré, Head of Research at the Ecology and Physiology of the Digestive System Unit at INRA (the French National Institute for Agricultural Research). He also worked for the MetaHit European project and is Head of the Scientific Board of Gut Microbiota for Health Experts Exchange. You can follow him on Twitter.

Paul Enck, Professor of Medical Psychology and Director of Research, Department of Psychosomatic Medicine at Tübingen University in Germany. He is member of the Board of Gut Microbiota & Health Section of the European Society of Neurogastroenterology & Motility (ESNM) and of our Editorial Board. Read more

New gut microbiome information centre by the University of Utah

Only a decade ago, most scientists did not pay much attention to gut microbiota. Nor did the media. Although it was known these microorganisms were useful for some important functions, like digestion or immunity, the scope of this importance was still unknown. Recent studies and advancements in research techniques and capacities have shed more light onto this field of research; consequently, initiatives of science outreach and popularisation have been born.  The blog you are reading, Gutmicrobiotawatch.org, where we try to share with you the latest findings and news on this field, is one of those.

As we’ve done before, today, we would like to recommend other platforms that offer interesting information on the subject. This is the case of The Human Microbiome microsite, created by a team of researchers and science writers from the Genetic Science Learning Centre at the University of Utah (USA).  Read more