Stanislav Dusko Ehrlich is a microbiologist whose primary research interest is the human microbiome’s role in human biology and its impact on human health and well-being.
His main focus is the gut microbiome, the most abundant and complex. Estimated to contain 10 times more cells than the rest of the human body, it is composed of hundreds of microbial species, weighs up to 2 kilograms, and can be viewed as a neglected organ. It has a high metabolic activity, helps digest food, protects against diseases and synthesizes compounds that the rest of the body can’t, such as essential amino acids, vitamins and short chain fatty acids. Its neglect is a simple consequence of the lack of ways to characterize it.
Ehrlich’s team has developed an approach known as ‘quantitative metagenomics,’ which is based on high throughput sequencing of total DNA extracted from stools and powerful bioinformatics. This approach describes the composition of the neglected gut microbiome in high detail. It has shown that this organ comes in three main types (known as enterotypes); that one person in four has lost a significant proportion of its richness (40 per cent of its species), and therefore has an increased risk of developing chronic metabolic syndromes (diabetes, liver and heart complications); and that the richness can be restored, at least in part, by nutritional interventions. This opens avenues to refocus medicine from a curative to preventive role, with means of accurately diagnosing individuals at risk, acting to alleviate their risk, saving societal resources and reducing human suffering.
Grand Prix Scientifique del Duca de l'Institut de France, 2014
Member of the American Academy of Microbiology, 2013
INRA Career Excellence Agricultural Research Award, 2008
Member of the French Academy of Agriculture, 2007
Member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 1997
Qin, N. et al. "Human gut microbiome alterations in liver cirrhosis." Nature 513, no. 7516 (September 2014): 59–64.
Le Chatellier, E. et al. "Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers." Nature 500, no. 7464 (August 2013): 174–80.
Qin, J. et al. "A human gut microbial gene catalogue established by metagenomic sequencing." Nature 464, no. 7285 (March 2010): 59–65.
Arumugam, M. et al. "Enterotypes of the human gut microbiome." Nature 473, no. 7346 (May 2011): 174–80.
Cotillard, A. et al. "Dietary interventions impact on gut microbial gene richness." Nature 500, no. 7464 (August 2013): 585–88.