Towards a new frontier in global health

Global health challenges on the rise

Despite significant advancements in global health over the past century, society remains faced with staggering health challenges. In the developing world, hunger and malnutrition together remains the number one challenge, while in high and middle-income countries obesity and chronic immune diseases are on the rise1. At the same time, extensive use of antibiotics is causing new and unexpected challenges, including antibiotic-resistant bacteria and health problems associated with the use of antibiotics in early life.


The human microbiome: a scientific break-through

One of the answers to the global healthcare challenges that lie ahead may well come from a better understanding of how our health is impacted by the trillions of bacteria that reside in and on our own bodies and in particular in our digestive track, also known as the human microbiome.

We are learning that the human microbiome actively influences our physical health and potentially even our mental health. It can be part of the reason why people get sick or, conversely, what helps them stay healthy. There is great potential in obtaining a better understanding of the beneficial bacteria that reside in our gut and in creating the proper conditions for them to work in our favor. 


What does the future hold?

There is still some way to go in converting the growing understanding of the human microbiome into applicable solutions for the prevention and treatment of microbiota-related diseases. One of the biggest hurdles in the years to come will be to learn how to grow and produce these bacteria, which are highly sensitive to air and have special growth requirements. To help overcome these barriers, we are investing significantly in new research facilities and has entered into a partnership with leading academic institutions in the human microbiome field.


The human microbiome

  • Humans have 10 times more microbes living in and on their bodies than human cells - or approx. 100 trillion bacteria
  • Each human carries approximately 1-2 kilograms of microbes 
  • The totality of microbes is known as the human microbiome, and the totality of its genetic potential is sometimes also referred to as our ‘second genome’ 
  • Super computers, such as the “MareNostrum” located in the Torre Girona chapel in Barcelona, play an important role in crunching the vast data sets generated in microbiome studies.


References
 

1 WHO: GLOBAL HEALTH RISKS. Mortality and burden of disease attributable to selected major risks, 2009

 

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