Small microbes, big microbiome

Microbiome logoOur own bodies are teeming with microorganisms, not to mention those present in the environment we live in. Every time we touch something we transfer microbial life from one place to another. Understanding the genetic make-up of these microbes and how they interact with one another is crucial to increase our knowledge of all life forms and all environments on the planet.


Microbiome research involves identifying and characterising the genetic material of microorganisms found in a particular environment. This relatively young field has seen an explosion of research in the last few years, and is rapidly growing as more is discovered about the uses of microbiome data and methods and protocols are developed.


Scientists have been studying the microbial life which exists in the environment for many years. The bacteria and viruses found in the ocean and elsewhere on the planet are so diverse and vast that we are only scraping the surface of cataloguing these organisms. With new tools and data available, the possibilities of what can be done with this data is limitless. There is plenty to learn about the microbiome of organisms and environments and how they interact together and with humans, not least those in the built-up, modern environment which most of us live in today.


Human Microbiome Project logoOnly more recently have scientists begun to delve deeper into the human microbiome. The Human Microbiome Project was established by the National Institute for Health in 2012; the aim to map the microbial make-up of the healthy human body. The vast data collected from this project is proving hugely valuable to the community, allowing research to continue into investigating the microbiome in relation to diseases and in maintaining health. This exciting area of research is still developing and scientists are exploring different ways to analyse microbiome data, in addition to how to use it.


In 2013, Microbiome was launched with BioMed Central, edited by Jacques Ravel and Eric Wommack. The journal is a platform for both environmental microbiome research and human microbiome research, and provides a forum for discussion between these topics. In the video below, Jacques and Eric discuss the aims of the journal, and why open access is so important in this area of research.


The Microbiome team know how it is important publish microbiome datasets as quickly as possible, before the lengthy full analysis of the data is completed. Making this data available enables others to re-use it for different purposes and benefits the whole microbiome community.

In a second video below, the Editors-in-Chief talk about a new article type which Microbiome has developed to address this.



You can read more about the research of Jacques Ravel and Eric Wommack in the microbiome community in a Question and Answer feature in BioMed Central’s online magazine Biome, and watch more video interviews on our YouTube Channel.

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