3. Human Microbiome Therapeutics

The human body is perhaps more properly described as an ecosystem than as a single organism: microbial cells typically outnumber human cells by 10 to one. This human microbiome has been the subject of intensifying research in the past few years, with the Human Microbiome Project in 2012 reporting results generated from 80 collaborating scientific institutions.

They found that more than 10,000 microbial species occupy the human ecosystem, comprising trillions of cells and making up 1%-3% of the body’s mass.

Through advanced DNA sequencing, bioinformatics and culturing technologies, the diverse microbe species that cohabitate with the human body are being identified and characterized, with differences in their abundance correlated with disease and health.

It is increasingly understood that this plethora of microbes plays an important role in our survival: bacteria in the gut, for example, allow humans to digest foods and absorb important nutrients that their bodies would otherwise not be able to access. On the other hand, pathogens that are ubiquitous in humans can sometimes turn virulent and cause sickness or even death.

Attention is being focused on the gut microbiome and its role in diseases ranging from infections to obesity, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease. It is increasingly understood that antibiotic treatments that destroy gut flora can result in complications such as Clostridium difficile infections, which can in rare cases lead to life-threatening complications.

On the other hand, a new generation of therapeutics comprising a subset of microbes found in healthy gut are under clinical development with a view to improving medical treatments.

Advances in human microbiome technologies clearly represent an unprecedented way to develop new treatments for serious diseases and to improve general healthcare outcomes in our species.

“The World Economic Forum  is an independent international organization committed to  improving the state of the world  by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional  and industry agendas.

Incorporated as a not-for-profit foundation in 1971 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, the Forum is  tied to no political, partisan  or national interests.”

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