Clinical OMICS

NOV-DEC 2017

Healthcare magazine for research scientists, labs, pathologists, hospitals, cancer centers, physicians and biopharma companies providing news articles, expert interviews and videos about molecular diagnostics in precision medicine

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26 Clinical OMICs November/December 2017 W e are all colonized by vast quantities of microorganisms. Until recently, there has been little focus on how these microbes can help us stay healthy. However, it has now been recognized that they can provide us with a whole array of different benefits. In contrast, disruption of these microbial communities, such as through excessive use of antibiotics, can actively contribute to disease. The quest to try to understand the human microbiome and to discover how manipulating it in different ways could help prevent or treat disease has been taken up by the research community with enthusiasm, with advances in technol- ogy helping to power this search for knowledge. There are several different microbiomes present in or on the human body such as that of the skin, the mouth and the urogenital tract, but the largest and most well characterized is the one found in the gut. Recent research has uncovered associations between the gut microbiome and a number of diseases including inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, cancer, infections, and even neurologic disorders. While a lot of this research is still at an early stage, clinicians and researchers are already finding ways to use their findings to help treat patients develop better diagnostic tools for disease; and evaluate the efficacy of different therapies based on the diversity and composition of a patient's gut microbiome. Conquering Clostridium difficile An early win for gut microbiome researchers was the use of fecal transplants from healthy volunteers to treat patients with recurrent C. difficile infection—a condi- tion that causes around 29,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. The success of this somewhat unconventional treatment led to it cautiously being recommended for severe or reoccurring C. difficile infections by both the U.S. FDA and the U.K. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. But, there are restrictions on its wider use due to concerns about transplant regulation and possible side effects (see "How Safe are Fecal Transplants" sidebar). Mark Wilcox, M.D., professor, medical microbiology, University of Leeds, March of the Microbes Harnessing the Power of the Human Microbiome to Improve Health and Target Disease NIAID, National Institutes of Health Scanning electron micrograph of human neutrophil ingesting MRSA (purple). Helen Albert

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