Can we test for whats in the Microbiome? – Justin L. Sonnenburg PhD

Defeating Asthma Series uncovers New Hope for Asthma Management

In this interview with Justin L. Sonnenburg PhD, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University, we learn about:

* Testing for Microbes within the Microbiome

* That we’re in the early stages of our understanding of the Microbiome

* Research that still needs to be done

Our understanding of Asthma and the way we treat it may soon be radically different from what currently exists, due to new research on the human microbiome and how the microbiome affects asthma.

“Diseases largely driven by inflammation and an altered immune system. If we start to take our gut microbiota into account, as we live our life, as we make medical decisions, eat different foods and potentially even eventually reintroduce some of these lost microbes, how profound can the impact be on our health?” Justin L. Sonnenburg Ph.D


World Asthma Foundation:  Dr. Sonnenburg, can we test for what’s in the microbiome?

Video Interview Can we test for whats in the Microbiome? – Justin L. Sonnenburg PhD

Dr. Justin L. Sonnenburg: On an individual level, there are companies that offer testing for the different species to give you the composition of what’s in your microbiome. I can’t speak to the validity of any of these companies, but there are commercial entities out there that will provide a profile for individuals.

World Asthma Foundation:  Thanks. Do you know if it’s specific? For example, research reflects that Bifidobacterium breve and Lactobacillus specifically have been targeted. I’m not a hundred percent sure if it’s inflammation or infection or both, it seems to be successful. The question is, can we test for those specific bacteria?

Dr. Justin L. Sonnenburg: There are targeted tests out there for specific bacteria that where we think given the species may be of interest. Of course, this is most famous for infectious agents. If you want to go in and see if you have Clostridium difficile or salmonella or something like that, there are specific targeted tests. These are less common for the good guys in our gut. I think part of the reason is we still don’t have a great understanding of what the good guys are.

There are studies out there that indicate certain associated with health States are associated with being able to fight off specific problems.

In general, quite often what’s found for one population when surveyed in an independent population doesn’t necessarily hold up.

There’s just extreme variability in the gut microbiome. I think as much as we know about the field is still how fundamental this community is to our health, we’re still at a really early stage of understanding what is healthy and also coming to grips with the fact that there is no single definition of healthy, that healthy really depends on the individual, the context, and many other factors.

World Asthma Foundation: It’s a complex issue and relatively emerging, right?

Dr. Justin L. Sonnenburg:  Exactly. A lot of research still needs to be done.

World Asthma Foundation: Thank you everything that you do on a daily basis for the gut microbiome, certainly for your teachings and your writings and for your time today. Appreciate it.

Dr. Justin L. Sonnenburg: Wonderful being with you. Thanks so much.