Microorganisms cover our skin and fill our guts. These bacteria, viruses and fungi – collectively called the human microbiome – were until recently only considered interesting if they led to disease.
But a growing body of research shows that a properly functioning microbiome has tremendous impact on human health. For instance, the ability to maintain a healthy weight is probably influenced significantly by the microbiota in your gut. A mother’s microbiome could affect the healthy development of her fetus’s brain. And researchers are learning about the effects of colonization on human groups by examining the microbes in dental tartar of human remains in West Africa.
This program brings anthropologists, biologists and other scholars together to provide biocultural context to host-microbiome interactions. They’re asking new questions about what aspects of individual and societal behaviour are critical to understanding the role of the microbiome in human health and development.
By gaining a complete picture of the relationship between the microbiome and human culture and biology, CIFAR’s Humans & the Microbiome team will open up new understanding of the roots of disease, issues of early development, our susceptibility to future pandemics, and even human behaviour.