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11 Lessons From Microbiome Research that Changed the way we Approach Microbes

Marcelline Goyen at the Microbiome Forum

Written by Marcelline Goyen

Amsterdam was full of “international microbes” during the 4th Microbiome R&D and Business Collaboration Forum: Europe. More than 300 people interested in human microbiomes met at the Beurs van Berlage to listen to current research and meet colleagues and partners.

As an editor for Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Huidtherapie (NTVH), a Dutch magazine for Skin Therapy, and a skin therapist interested in the microbiome, I was lucky to be able to attend this meeting and I’d like to share with you some of the insights I gained.

  1. The role of microbes on the human body: We all have many microbes in and on our body: we cannot live without them but they can also harm our body. Our microbes are involved in the adaptive and innate pathway of our immune system.
  2. Our microbiome is an external organ: Microbes are not human, but as we cannot live without them and our immune system is dependant upon a healthy and stable microbiome, we can consider our microbiome to be an external organ. Therefore, it follows that we must respect and treat our microbes as friends and not enemies.
  3. 1 in 100 people has a gluten intolerance: It seems that gluten intolerance is an under diagnosed disease and people who suffer from gluten intolerance need to live 100% free of gluten.
  4. The role of antibiotics in Coeliac disease: The use of antibiotics increases the risk of developing a gluten intolerance.
  5. The role of bacteria in Coeliac disease: Coeliac disease is related to bacteria. One of the causes of it is Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and some Lactobacillus species an be used as therapy.
  6. The skin is the largest organ of the human body: Our skin alone is about 2m2 but if we include the hair follicles, the skin’s surface area increases to around 100m2.
  7. Our skin microbiome is “multi culti”: On our human skin there are all kinds of microbes – viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. The composition of the microbiome is dependant upon many factors, such as genotype, sex, location, climate and lifestyle and can change due to both external and internal factors.
  8. Skin diseases and the skin microbiome: The composition of our skin microbiome changes a long time before signs of inflammation occur. Psoriasis, for example, is characterised by an increase in Proteobacteria and a decrease in Actinobacteria.
  9. The oral microbiome is relatively stable: Although our mouth is in contact with microbes from food, drink, our own skin and even other human beings and animals, it seems that our oral microbiome is incredibly stable.
  10. Dysbiosis of the oral microbiome influences disease: When the oral microbiome changes it can cause or influence internal diseases.
  11. Microbiome research has grown: Since we’ve been able to investigate the microbiome through microscopy and DNA-RNA, we’ve found more kinds of microbes in the gut and on the skin than we could have ever imagined.

It is amazing to see how many people are involved in research into the human microbiome. I’m sure that we will discover more and more about the role of our microbiome thanks to new developments and research all over the world.

Microbes may be used to cure diseases like Coeliac Disease, diabetes, mental disorders and even skin diseases and I am sure we will learn more about using microbes to improve our health. At the moment, lots of people outside of the scientific community don’t realise the potential of our microbiome. We need to be aware of the important relationship between our microbes and health.

Marcelline Goyen


Marcelline Goyen is the editor of NTVH and a BHS skin therapist with a particular interest in the relationship between the skin and intestinal microbiome.

If you found this interesting, you might also enjoy ‘The Human Microbiome in Focus: Probiotics, Modulation and Translation – Part 1’.

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