Microbiome: from forgotten organ to a new frontier

The bacteria we co-exist with are key to processes like digestion and educating the immune system. But their role goes much further, as variations or alterations in their composition have been associated with all sorts of diseases: obesity and diabetes, allergies, certain types of cancer. Recent studies suggest that they may also be linked to infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or even to behavioral disorders like autism. This is why the microbiome, the community of microorganisms that inhabit the human body —more than 90% of which are bacteria— is now known as the forgotten organ.

Some of the top international experts in the microbiome presented and commented on the latest work in this area at B·Debate, an initiative of Biocat and the “la Caixa” Foundation to promote scientific debate.


  1. In terms of the microbiome, richer is better: greater bacterial diversity tends to correspond with better overall health
  2. According to the hygiene hypothesis, increased asepsis in developed countries has reduced the diversity of beneficial microorganisms, contributing to the increase in allergies, obesity and diabetes
  3. Some bacteria have been linked to certain types of cancer, like colon or pancreatic. With HIV, the intestinal damage caused by the virus allows bacteria to pass into the blood and accelerates cell ageing
  4. The intestinal microbiome can even impact behavior and has been linked to cases of autism. Research is being done on the use of prebiotics, probiotics and even fecal transplants to treat this and other conditions.En termes de microbioma, és millor ser ric: una major diversitat bacteriana se sol correspondre amb una millor salut en general