Wednesday, 27 June marks World Microbiome Day. The aim for the day is to showcase the vibrant and diverse worlds of microbiomes and to encourage public dialogue on their critical importance to human, animal and environmental health.
This year’s theme is “Mind our Microbes”. Microbes have gained a bad reputation due to their ability to cause disease, but in reality, the vast majority of microbes do not cause any harm and are essential for plant, animal and human life. Microbiomes can be found in many parts of the human body such as in the skin, lungs, mouth and gastrointestinal tract - the most studied area of human microbiome. The gut microbiome is essential to humans as it carries out many vital functions in the human body such as:
- Helping digestion through breaking down foods
- Immune system development; preventing infections by competing with pathogens (disease causing microorganisms)
- The synthesis of essential nutrients such as Vitamin K and B12 as well as short chain fatty acids
Various diseases, such as obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and asthma have all been associated with a reduction of gut microbiome and healthy aging may be compromised by gut bacteria deficits. Scientists have also found that gut microbiomes are able to influence brain function and behaviour. The gut is sensitive to emotions such as anger, sadness and anxiety which may be due to the brain-gut-microbiome axis which is a three-way communication system between the brain, the gut and its residential microorganisms.
With further research, scientists are learning more about microbes and microbiotas, and it is becoming increasingly clear that one of the critical aspects to good health is microbial diversity. Healthier humans tend to have a greater variety of microbes in their guts.
For our continued wellbeing, it is important that awareness is raised during World Microbiome Day and that our microbes are protected.
World Microbiome Day is co-ordinated by APC Microbiomes Ireland.