The Human Microbiome and Individualized Responses to Pharmaceutical Drugs
Human Microbiome Project
Human Microbiome Project

Human Microbiome Project
Human Microbiome Project

The human microbiome is a vast array of microbial members and the interactions they have with surrounding environments throughout the body. The challenge of fully comprehending the human microbiome and the intricacies of co-metabolic activity occurring amongst individual bacteria, pharmacologically derived byproducts, and the responding human gut can seem truly overwhelming . Introducing synthetic products into the equation only complicates the system more. Despite the advance of modern medicine, pharmaceuticals continue to be produced in a "one size fits most" manner. The microbiome regulates metabolic balance and homeostatic activity within the body and as a result, becomes unique to each individual and the particular environmental conditions that surround. As each microbiome becomes individualized, the possibility of side effects and unwanted results from specific pharmaceutical drugs becomes more and more likely. Despite the fact that pathologists and the healthcare industry have not reached a viable for of perso nalized medicine for the masses, newly produced drugs are subject to vigorous standards by the FDA. To grasp the consistent growth and diversity within the microbiome, the human intestines hold more than 10 times the amount of microbes than there are cells in the body (1).

Michael Fischback of the UCSF School of Pharmacy describes how the drug-producingmechanisms of the human gut have aided discoveries leading towards a newunderstanding of the complexity of Crohn's Disease. UCSF School of Pharmacy
Mechanics of the Microbiome
In the past decade, the gut has been the focus of studies conducted regarding personalized pharmaceutical treatment. Although the microbiome technically includes nasal, oral, skin, and urogenital components, the gastrointestinal realm and the diverse mix of millions of microbe interactions have created new windows of opportunity. Several papers have gone so far as to suggest the microflora of the gut to be a “microbial organ” which resides in a surrounding host organ (2). Additionally researchers have also started to discover that each individual’s generalized mix of bacteria can also be responsible for individualized treatments to sickness. Michael Fischback of UCSF was quick to point out that many treatments to specific gut diseases have been derived from the co-metabolic by products that have been discovered in the past decade. This same finding does go in the opposite direction however, as bacteria can become pathogenically harmful and result in toxin production, intestinal putrefaction, and even carcinogenic production (3). Disease’s including Crohn’s disease stem from the problem that researchers have had shortcomings identifying how to identify these same toxins that prevent reoccurring bouts of sickness in patients. In recent studies, the use of prebiotics and probiotics has allowed researchers to manipulate the composition of the mammalian gut and thus control the direct interactions of certain microbes (4). In the past, most research of the mammalian gut and microbial communities have been limited by the internal nature of the symbiotic relationship. At present, in vivo analysis of the gut are allowing more and more surgical applications and metagenomic samples which allow for even more evaluation of the complex microbial interaction occurring (5). Ultimately, the fundamental mechanisms that create reactions between specific bacteria will have to be understood in a manner that will provide unexpected consequences with some baseline knowledge

Probiotics – Induced Symbiosis
The research and development of probiotic treatments has increased dramatically in the past 10 years. By introducing live microorganism to an existing problem, researchers have identified consistent relationships which have alleviated problems such as obesity, blood pressure, colon cancer, and general immune functioning (6). The implantation of these microorganisms will provide long-term benefits as scientist monitor the efficiency of the drugs they are inducing interaction with. P.D. Cani has recently discovered that probiotic treatment in early adult life can isolate the metabolic functions that lead to eventual obesity. Probiotics and prebiotics are historically an extremely new concept and from a business perspective are still very experimental. In comparison to pharmaceutical drugs however, the concept of introducing live microorganisms over synthetically derived chemicals does seem more appealing to certain shares of the current population. Probiotic supplementation has also proved to be significantly less harmful to developing children (7). Early supplementation of microorganisms to children has proven to boost immune response and even to alleviate the proliferation of allergic disease.
Graphical analysis of organisms sequenced during the Human Microbiome Project

Links to Human Microbiome Studies
The Human Microbiome Project

The CIHR Canadian Microbiome Initiative
The International Human Microbiome Consortium
Data Analysis and Coordination Center


1) Björkstén B, Sepp E, Julge K, Voor T, Mikelsaar M (October 2001). "Allergy development and the intestinal microflora during the first year of life". J. Allergy Clin. Immunol. 108 (4): 516–20. doi:10.1067/mai.2001.118130. PMID 11590374.

2) Nicholson JK, Holmes E, Wilson ID. Gut microorganisms, mammalian metabolism and personalized healthcare. Nat Rev Microbiol 2005; 3:431438

3) Microbiology of the Human Intestinal Tract and Approaches for Its Dietary Modulation
D.M. Saulnier, S. Kolida and G.R. Gibson

4) The Gut Microbiota in Inflammatory Bowel Disease
G.T. Macfarlane, K.L. Blackett, T. Nakayama, H. Steed and S. Macfarlane

The Gut Microbiota as a Target for Improved Surgical Outcome and Improved Patient Care
J. Kinross, A.C. von Roon, N. Penney, E. Holmes, D. Silk, J.K. Nicholson and A. Darzi

The Role of the Gut Microbiota in Energy Metabolism and Metabolic Disease
P.D. Cani and N.M. Delzenne

7) Probiotics, Immune Function, Infection and Inflammation: A Review of the Evidence from Studies Conducted in Humans
A.R. Lomax and P.C. Calder