Contributed by Ning Chin
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has devoted a considerable amount of research funds on the Human Microbiome Project. Since 2008, a lot of research was done to identify the species of bacteria existing on the human body. Human microbiome is defined as the community of bacteria that coexist with humans since birth. These bacteria function as another barrier to protect us from other harmful pathogens, as they physically occupy the available niches on our body where they flourish in communities. These studies have shed light on the bacterial community existing on both healthy and unhealthy individuals, especially in the gut. However, as we keep making discoveries, more questions arises with these findings.
Pharmacology, the study of drug action, is concerned with pharmacokinetics (how does the body reacts to a drug) and pharmacodynamics (what a drug does to the body). Bacteria in our gut are now known to affect both of these factors leading so labs to determine how we consume drugs personally for maximal effect – so called personalized or individualized medicine, now, more commonly called precision medicine. Phamacomicrobiomics, is a new area of science that investigates the effect of human microbiome on the action and disposition of drugs with the thought of enabling precision medicine based on the microbiome and the individuals own body chemistry. The term was first coined by Aziz et al. in 2011, but few studies have been conducted in this area. Over the weekend, I read an interesting article about how a diabetes drug, metformin, alter the gut microbiome to produce favorable compounds, further enhancing the result of the drug. Due to the close relationship between the human microbiome and our own chemistry, it is not so much a surprise to see that microbiome plays a role in how our body reacts to different chemical compounds, either enhancing the result or diminishing the result. This has been shown with antibiotics too. Our own lab has been involved in studies that demonstrate the effect of antibiotics to change the microbiome interactions and susceptibility to disease (Ferreyra et al., 2014). To fully understand the effects of drugs on human lifestyle, it is important to investigate the link between these drugs with our forgotten organ – our microbiome.
Additional reading and links:
Aziz RK, Saad R, Rizkallah MR. PharmacoMicrobiomics or how bugs modulate drugs: an educational initiative to explore the effects of human microbiome on drugs. BMC Bioinformatics. 2011;12(Suppl 7):A10. doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-S7-A10.
Gut microbiota-produced succinate promotes C. difficile infection after antibiotic treatment or motility disturbance. Ferreyra JA, Wu KJ, Hryckowian AJ, Bouley DM, Weimer BC, Sonnenburg JL. Cell Host Microbe. 2014 Dec 10;16(6):770-7. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2014.11.003. PMID: 25498344