An old, and old-fashioned, dream of medicine was to live without bacteria. However today we now know how wrong that was. We play host to approximately 2 kg of them, coexisting and having an impact on a wide range of processes, many of which were unimaginable just a few years ago. It has been called the last organ: the microbiome.
Research into its importance in terms of health is one of the main areas of activity in the field of biomedicine. Some of the latest discoveries include, for example, that pregnancy isn't a sterile process, as previously thought, as the placenta has its own microbiome that can influence fetal development; that there seems to be a critical window, at around three months old, when changes in the bacterial ecosystem can predispose a child to developing asthma; that it is possible to administer certain bacteria to boost cancer treatment, which has given rise to what is called ‘oncomicrobiotics’; and that scientists continue to work to perfect what is known as a feces transplant, a new form of treatment that could change the course of illnesses like diabetes.
To share and discuss these and other advances, some of the top experts in the world met for another session of B·Debate, an initiative of Biocat and the “la Caixa” Foundation to promote scientific debate, which is beginning to establish Barcelona as a scientific hub for studying the microbiome. This debate, called 'The Barcelona Debates on the Human Microbiome. From Microbes to Medicines', is the second that B·Debate organizes about microbiome.
- Contrary to previous beliefs, pregnancy isn’t a sterile process. The placenta has its own microbiome that seems to have an impact on fetal development. Furthermore, scientists are starting to question the association between cesarean birth and changes to the microbiome.
- Children with a tendency to develop asthma have a different microbiome when they're three months old, but not when they're one. This window of time could be a therapeutic opportunity.
- A new concept has developed, oncomicrobiotics: bacteria administered to boost the effectiveness of cancer therapies by improving immune response.
- Research continues on feces transplants, but looking to the future, selecting more effective bacteria for each situation and administering them in a more controlled manner.