NCIMB celebrates World Microbiome Day

The first World Microbiome Day is on the 27 June 2018 with the theme “mind our microbes”.  World Microbiome Day aims to encourage researchers around the world to spread the message of the importance of microbiomes.

The microbiome is defined as the community of microorganisms that live in a particular environment. People are often unaware that bacteria form complex, interacting communities as much of the focus on bacteria is when a species is singled out as a dangerous pathogen. The reality is that we all live with a synergistic, supportive community of bacteria across our bodies from our digestive system to our skin.

These complex communities of bacteria exist in balance with each other, exchanging signals and nutrients, and sometimes even taking measures such as deploying antibiotics against each other. This makes microbiomes a potential source of new molecules that may be used in medicine, such as antibiotics or anti-cancer compounds. Understanding the communities themselves can result in better production of biofuels or improved waste treatment.

NCIMB looks after the UK’s National Collection of Industrial, Food and Marine Bacteria. This reference collection includes thousands of microbes isolated from all kinds of microbiomes, from deserts to Antarctic ice, from fish skin to fertile farm soil. Culture collections like NCIMB’s are global biological resources that play a vital role in the understanding of microorganisms, not just as individual species, but as communities as well.

The soil microbiome, for instance is very complex and some of the most interesting bacteria in the soil community are Streptomyces.  Antibiotics from Streptomyces species are the first line of defence against many bacterial infections. NCIMB and researchers at Robert Gordon University (RGU) are screening Streptomyces species from our culture collection for the production of novel natural products, which could be anything from new pigments to new anti-cancer compounds.

Another example of an important microbial community is in the human gut.  Microbiome diversity in the gut is increasingly being linked to human health. One example of how this can be applied is the technique of faecal microbiota transplantation (also known as a stool transplant or FMT).  FMT has been shown to be effective in managing conditions such as persistent infection with Clostridium difficile.  The technique works by replacing the poorly functioning gut microbiome with a healthy one from a donor individual. NCIMB works with clinicians to understand how best to preserve beneficial microbes in the FMT donations.

For more information about how we “mind our microbes”, NCIMB’s culture collection and research activities contact Dr Samantha Law. (e)