25th September 2017 -
Exploring the Microbiome – moving on from association to causation
Exploring Human Host-Microbiome Interactions in Health and Disease
13–15 September 2017, Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton
This September saw the gathering of 150 international scientists and clinicians to discuss the latest research on the microbiome: the bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in and on us. Funded and organised by the Advanced Courses and Scientific conferences, the 6th Exploring Human Host-Microbiome Interactions in Health and Disease brought leading scientists and clinicians working in microbiology, immunology, and public health to the Campus to discuss the latest developments in this fast-moving field.
The microbiome (especially the gut microbiome) has been a hot area of research for the past decade; changes in the microbiome have been associated with many diseases, including inflammatory bowel conditions, autoimmune diseases, diabetes and even some cancers. The challenge of proving that these microbiome changes actually cause disease directly was the main topic of this year’s debate session at the conference. The lively audience discussion that followed mentioned the need for standards, the caution in translating studies from animals, and some suggested that the microbiome field could learn from human genetics/epidemiology research with the use of larger, longitudinal studies to strengthen the case for causation. There were several sessions and speakers that emphasized the translational microbiome, with discussions on the challenges of faecal microbiome transplants (which introduces microbiota from a healthy donor into a patient) and the current regulation associated with probiotics and ‘bugs as drugs’ (i.e. introducing beneficial microbes into a patient).
The conference programme committee include Patricia Hibberd (Boston University, USA), Colin Hill (University College Cork, Ireland), Cath O’Neill (University of Manchester, UK), Gregor Reid (Lawson Health Research Institute, Canada) and Karen Scott (University of Aberdeen, UK).
This year 50% of the invited speakers were female, helping to improve the visibility of female scientists in this area. As in previous years, the warm welcome given to students and trainees and the open friendly atmosphere provided by the microbiome community ensured attendees had a productive and enjoyable conference.
Delegates commented in post-meeting feedback:
"One of the best conferences I've attended. Very interactive, interesting talks and great opportunity for networking and collaboration."
"A balanced coverage of topics and excellent choice of speakers."
"I enjoyed every session. I am working on gut microbiome but I have learned things from people working on different ecosystems too."