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photograph of Dr. Eugene Chang, Martin Boyer Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine. University of Chicago.
Dr. Eugene Chang, Martin Boyer Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine. University of Chicago.

Microbiome and Health Webinar on April 27

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This post was written by Amanda Schmitt, Senior Nurse Practitioner in the Library’s Health Services Division. 

The microbiome comprises trillions of microorganisms (also called microbiota or microbes) in the human body which consist of different species, including various bacteria, fungi, viruses, and their genes. Humans actually have more bacterial cells, than human cells. Bacteria live on the skin, ears, in the nose, and other various locations on the body, but, largely in the gut. These microbes are so small a microscope is required to see them. They not only enable us to digest food and produce energy, but also play a key role in our immune system and how our body fights diseases.

Illustration of beneficial gut bacteria.
Beneficial Gut Bacteria. Credit: Darryl Leja, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health. Source: NIH Image Gallery, Flickr

Each person’s microbiome is unique and determined by their DNA. Your microbiome can quickly become altered, depending on how you were delivered at birth, your diet, and environmental exposures throughout your life. These alterations can be beneficial or increase your risk of disease. In healthy individuals, pathogenic (promoting disease) and symbiotic (beneficial to the body) microbes coexist in a peaceful environment (homeostasis) without problems. Any disturbance to this peaceful coexistence, creates dysbiosis (disruption/imbalance) and prevents normal healthy interactions of the microbes, resulting in increased susceptibility to disease. Disturbances come from numerous sources, including infectious diseases, certain diets, chronic stress, prolonged use of antibiotics or other bacteria destroying medications, and environmental exposures.

Advancements in technology have lowered the costs associated with researching the microbiome and scientists are learning new things daily. The studies look at what environmental factors affect the microbiome, as well as how dysbiosis of the microbiome affects the human body.

Illustration of a person with a collection of microbes surrounding them.
Illustration from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Microbiome page.

Large studies have suggested that inflammation caused by dysbiosis may lead to increased risk of cancers (especially colon cancer and liver cancers), mental health disorders (depression and anxiety), autoimmune disorders (systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis), and other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.  Other research is exploring the use of the microbiome to restore homeostasis as a possible treatment.  Microbiome research is still in its beginning stages, but it holds a lot of promise for the future.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, the Library’s Health Services Division is sponsoring a free webinar with Dr. Eugene Chang, Martin Boyer Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, who will be leading an online discussion on Microbiome and Health: What Your Gut Can Tell You About Your Health, April 27. 

Webinar: Microbiome and Health: What Your Gut Can Tell You About Your Health

Date: Thursday, April 27, 2023

Time: 11:00 a.m.- noon (EST)

Register for the online event at

For more information or questions about this webinar, please use our Science Ask-a-Librarian Service and refer to “Microbiome and Health.” Individuals requiring accommodations for this event are requested to submit a request at least five business days in advance by contacting (202) 707-6362 or [email protected].

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