Companies Pursue Diagnostics that Mine the Microbiome

Andrea Anderson | May 23, 2017

If we think of our bodies as walking, talking ecosystems, it stands to reason that microbial collections may change in response to the foods we eat and places we live. Similarly, disease-related shifts in the human environment are expected to influence our resident microbes, even if those microbes themselves don’t cause the changes.

Investigators and investors are increasingly banking on the possibility that microbes finding safe harbor in human habitats may be useful for detecting disease—from acute infections to chronic inflammatory conditions.

“It makes sense that the microbiome could be an indicator of lots of different things going on in the body,” said University of California, Davis, evolution and ecology researcher Jonathan Eisen, whose lab studies microbial contributions to ecosystem health. “The community of microbes is a pretty good readout of availability of carbon and nitrogen and activation of the immune system and oxygen levels and moisture levels and temperature. All of those things, pretty confidently, we know affect microbial communities,” he explained.

Read more