by Ami Bhatt, Stanford Medical School, US
From human health to the oceanic food chain, microbes are at the base of every major biological system. Far from being passive, these organisms strongly interact with the environment. Yet, for all of this interaction, the dynamics between humans and the microbiome has only been explored for the last twenty years, and even then, most studies have collapsed spectacular strain heterogeneity into monolithic “species”. Positing that “strains matter”, our lab has developed and applied molecular and computational methods that link microbes to specific biological phenomena. By studying patients undergoing hematopoietic cell transplantation, who are typically hospitalised for weeks and are exposed to wide-spectrum antibiotics and chemotherapies, we hope to understand ecological and evolutionary changes in the gut microbiome in clinical time scales. Furthermore, we hope to understand how microbial communication systems shape community structure in these settings. In this session, I will discuss recent, unpublished data on these two topics and describe how our observations are shaping our growing thinking on microbial genomic evolution in short time scales and microbe-microbe and microbe-host communication.
Host: Renee Beekman