Microbes and Humans: Effects on Health, Disease, and Society

Friday, February 17, 2017: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 311 (Hynes Convention Center)
The microbes that inhabit humans -- collectively called the microbiome -- play a critical role in human development and physiology and can be considered an additional organ. They play major roles in food digestion, immune system development, and inflammation and directly affect the growing epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and asthma in industrialized societies over the past 50 years. Microbes also help shape human societies through both common diseases and pandemics. This session explores several major ways microbes affect humans. Microbes play a major role in early childhood development, including affecting the immune system and even brain development. Our society’s obsession with cleanliness and antibiotics is thus having a major impact on childhood development, including recently identified early microbiota effects on asthma. Obesity and diabetes rates are skyrocketing worldwide, and recent data indicate that the microbiome plays a central role, including the finding that obesity can be transferred through feces. By understanding an individual’s microbiome, it is now possible to design a personalized diet, resulting in weight loss. In addition, historical evidence reveals that microbes significantly affect societal development. By studying ancient microbial DNA, new insights have been shed on the plagues and pandemics that have shaped our history.
Janet Rossant, Hospital for Sick Children
B. Brett Finlay, University of British Columbia
The Role of the Microbiome in Early Childhood
Eran Elinav, Weizmann Institute of Science
Deciphering the Diet-Microbiome-Metabolism Axis