The bacteria and other microbes living inside us will soon get a much closer look, with the White House announcing a major new initiative today that promises to speed up our understanding of how the trillions of microorganisms play a role in diseases, such as cancer.
The National Microbiome Initiative is a collaboration of government and private industry and it has a broad aim to understand the microorganism communities on Earth and beyond. These communities include bacteria, viruses and fungi. As part of the Initiative the government pledged to support more than $121 million over the next couple years to research. That includes everything from investigating microbes’ role in land, sea, and space. It also involves looking at microbes in animals, including us humans.
A lot of the microbiome research already involves human health. Largely ignored until recently, scientists now know that our skin, mouth, gut and almost every part of our body is teeming with microbes that we depend upon for good health. Whether these microbes outnumber human cells ten to one or they’re about even, we know there are trillions of them. And that they are important.
Too many or too few of certain microbes are associated with chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. With both of these diseases linked to increased risk of many cancers, the microbiome has become a focus for researchers involved with cancer prevention.
Here’s a few articles we’ve written about microbes and their role in cancer risk over the years. With this Initiative, there promises to be a lot more to come.