This Week In Biofilms And Microbiomes: Monday February 1, 2016

A round-up of what we read last week in the media's coverage of biofilms and microbiomes research.

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Giving antibiotics to young children for chest infections could make them obese or asthmatic, reports a recent study published in Nature Communications last week. Exposure to antibiotics, especially early in life, may kill off healthy bacteria that influence how we absorb nutrients into our bodies, and would otherwise keep us lean. Researchers led by William de Vos of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, found distinct changes in intestinal microbiota in Finnish children aged two to seven after a course of macrolide antibiotics, a common class of antibiotics widely used to treat respiratory tract infections, particularly in those allergic to pencillin. The microbiota shift in these kids included depletion of Actinobacteria, increase in Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria, decrease in bile-salt hydrolase and increase in macrolide resistance. Although the microbiota recover when the antibiotics stop, metabolic changes continue. The results support the idea that, without compromising clinical practice, the impact on the intestinal microbiota should be considered when prescribing antibiotics. Read the coverage by Mirror, Genome Web, Medical Express and Live Science.

In a new study, published in Nature Medicine, a team of researchers from the USA have demonstrated an intriguing method to partially restore and normalize the microbial assembly of babies born by cesarean section. Exposure of newborns to the maternal vaginal microbiota is interrupted with cesarean birthing. Babies delivered by cesarean section (C-section) acquire a microbiota that differs from that of vaginally delivered infants, and C-section delivery has been associated with increased risk for immune and metabolic disorders. In this pilot study, C-section babies were swabbed with their mother’s vaginal fluid using a sterile piece of gauze that was dipped in a saline solution and inserted into each mother’s vagina for one hour before surgery. 30 days after the birth, the researchers followed up with the babies and collected samples from different parts of their bodies to determine which types of bacteria made up their microbiomes. They found that the swabbed C-section babies' microbiomes were much more similar to the babies born vaginally than to the other babies born via C-section. The paper was highlighted by several media outlets including Live Science, NY Times, New Scientist and Popular Science.

More and more players within the EU Biotech industry are being drawn to the Microbiome field. In a recent press release, Swiss drugs company Ferring Pharmaceuticals and Sweden based Karolinska Institutet announced the signing of a collaboration agreement that establishes a research centre exploiting the human microbiome. The proposed project focuses on therapeutic areas where Ferring has extensive expertise. Karolinska Institutet has a deep understanding of the human microbiome. Parts of the research will be carried out at the Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) that provides access to a broad technical platform for studying complex microbiological communities in well-defined human material. The research will be led by Lars Engstrand, Karolinska Institutet, who will serve as director. Through these collaborations, small biotech and pharmaceutical companies are looking to studies of the microbial communities in the human body as inspiration for new probiotics, transplants, traditional drugs, or engineered bacteria that could be used to treat disease. Ferring hopes to follow suit, by working with the Karolinska Institutet on a large survey of human microbiomes in different disease states.

We’d love to hear what you’ve been reading this week. Please comment below.

Richa Dandona

Partnerships and Operations Manager, Nature Partner Journals, Nature Research