Microbiome relationships and health impact

The human microbiome—the assemblage of bacteria and other organisms that live in our gut, skin and other places on our bodies—plays a critical role in health and disease. It appears that the human microbiome can affect our metabolism, our immune system and even our behavior.

We have a lot to learn about what constitutes a “healthy” or “unhealthy” microbiome, but there is evidence that a certain amount of diversity (i.e., the number and abundance of different microbial species) has a positive impact on health and that some of the most diverse microbiomes can be found in people living in remote areas with diets that are rich in different types of plants and animal sources.

It also appears that sharing a living space with animals such as a pet dog or a domestic animal can affect the human microbiome. COHR is engaged in a number of research projects to understand microbiome relationships among humans, animals and environments and the effect that such “microbiome sharing” can have on health.  

Our research includes:

The Healthy Dairy Worker study: Microbiome adaptation to the dairy work environment

With support from the UW Pacific Northwest Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, COHR is carrying out a longitudinal study of the gut and nasal microbiome of dairy workers in Washington state compared to community controls. The study explores the observation that people living and working on farms report lower rates of allergy and infections than people living in urban environments. As new workers adapt to the farm environment, does their microbiome change, and could that change have consequences for their health?

Landscape interventions and impact on gut microbiome and health: Iquitos, Peru

With support from the UW Population Health Initiative, COHR is part of a multidisciplinary project to study the effect of community garden interventions on the gut microbiome, diet and health status of individuals living in an informal urban community in the Peruvian Amazon.