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Scientists Urge Dedicated Efforts to Understand Microbiomes

Update Date: Oct 28, 2015 07:41 PM EDT

Some of the biggest names in science have come together to urge a concerted effort to understand microbiomes, or the environments and interactions that define groupings of bacteria both inside the human body and in the wide world.

The calls for cooperation and research on the subject of microbiomes were made simultaneously in articles published by the influential journals Science and Nature, The New York Times reports.

The papers called for the government and others to back an effort similar to the Brain Initiative, which coordinated researchers and efforts towards coming to a deep understanding of the human brain.

In humans, microbiomes are known to impact everything from disease fighting to digestion and a balanced immune system. It is thought this mysterious microbe system may even play a role in debilitating mental disease such as Alzheimer's or Autism.

In nature, microbiomes are no less and important and no more understood, but they are just as critical to human life as the microbiomes within us. It is thought that half of all the oxygen in the world is made by ocean microbes.

The scientists who made the call for a focused effort to investigate microbiomes say that they could provide underlying explanations for a number of scientific phenomena.

For example, after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill polluted the Gulf of Mexico and caused deformities in species ranging from shrimp to dolphins, microbes in the Gulf also changed. And if a person gets a bad stomach infection, microbes critical to human health can also be killed, impacting health long after the infection has gone.

It is believed that both these events have some sort of similarity however, and if an understanding of the mechanisms that drive changes in microbiomes can be reached, then perhaps scientists can devise ways to control these microscopic environments.

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