The microbiome, human health, babies and therapies

Lindsay Hall, a research leader and lecturer at the Institute of Food Research of the University of East Anglia, gave the third talk of this term's Oxford IMP seminar series. Lindsay's work looks at the role of early life gut microbiota in resistance to enteric (gut) infections, and particularly the role of bifidobacteria.

Lindsay gave a wide-ranging talk that traced the development of recent microbiome science and its links to human health. For example, she told us about her work using new, fast and cheap technologies for DNA sequencing to facilitate new forms of testing in clinical settings that could make significant differences in health outcomes for premature babies with bacterial infections. She also talked about her work on a project called BAMBI - or 'baby associated microbiota of the intestine', which is a longitudinal study looking at the use of probiotics in premature babies.

But Lindsay's talk was not limited to her own work. It covered a broad introduction to the recent science of the microbiome, especially the evolution of bacterial ecologies in human guts, and the role of the microbiota in producing vitamins, influencing brain functions, developing the immune system, modulating GI tracts, metabolising nutrients, and provide colonisation resistance. She also explained how the microbiota can be be disturbed by genetic factors, antibiotics, infections, diet, environment, childbirth method, and even stress. 

Drawing on work by Blaser and Falkow on 'microbiota de-evolution', Lindsay explained how human societies are experiencing generational losses in microbiota diversity (due tothe reasons listed above), and how we are likely to require both microbiota therapies and nutritional therapies (probiotics) in the future. The group spent much of the Q&A discussing various of these putative futures.

Our thanks once again to Lindsay for an inspiring and intriguing talk. 


The next seminar in the OxIMP calendar is on 9th March, when Fulvio D'Acquisto will present 'The immunological side of emotions and feeling: What's s..t got to do with it?'