The 8th Beneficial Microbes Conference: Jude Huggan reflects on some highlights of the virtual event

I was really looking forward to attending the 8th Beneficial Microbes conference, an event which focuses on identifying gaps, needs and opportunities for applications of pre-, pro- and postbiotics in human and animal health, and I was not disappointed!

The conference had a fantastic programme, with speakers from both industry and academia showcasing the latest research on pre- and probiotics and the gut microbiome, the microbiota-gut-brain axis and the microbiome beyond the gut. There were sessions focussing on the placenta, milk and skin microbiomes as well a session on the use of beneficial microbes to combat SARS-CoV-2.

There has been a long-established link between the gut microbiome and the brain, with bidirectional communication between the central and enteric nervous system linking the brain with intestinal function, and recent advances in research have described the importance of the gut microbiota in influencing these interactions.  There were some excellent talks on predicting the effect of drugs on the host through microbial function, on the use of probiotics for mental health benefits, and on how the maternal microbiota modulates the production of metabolites during pregnancy that are beneficial on infant development.

In addition, some of the sessions focussed on the use of pre- and probiotic intervention as treatments to support healthy ageing.  There seems to be an increasing link between he gut-brain-axis and the role it plays in modulating the immune system – this was a central theme of many of the conference sessions – with many disease outcomes linked to elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines and how these could be affected by interventions with pre- and probiotics to treat gastrointestinal and respiratory infections – specifically how nutritional status could be linked to the prevention of infection.

Moving towards animal health, conference sessions focussed on microbial applications to improve animal health, welfare and performance, and how the use of probiotics affected animal behaviour.

There was an excellent mix of industry and academics in attendance and for NCIMB, the event was an excellent opportunity to learn about new innovations and emerging trends within the market, and to meet new connections in the field.  As we’ve learnt over the past year, virtual events aren’t perfect when it comes to networking – it can be difficult finding suitable contacts, and technology can sometimes be an issue (live streaming doesn’t always go to plan), but this was a new event to NCIMB and we found the virtual format to be really useful.  We made many new connections with organisations who are developing new microbial solutions in the field, and we look forward to discussing how the NCIMB services can support them in their endeavours and enhance product development.

We look forward to seeing what new innovations emerge in the market at the 9th Beneficial Microbes event in 2022.