Imagine yourself as the head of a funding agency (like the National Institute of Health) in which your job is to look at proposals for research projects and decide what projects to award funding to. Based on your readings this term, discuss a research project (or projects) that you would be most excited about funding as they relate to learning more about microbial influences on human health. As part of your response, consider what are we likely to learn from the project and how that might be important in future healthcare decisions.
Projects that I would be excited about longitudinal research projects that show how time and environmental conditions such as antibiotics affect a child’s microbiome as they age. I would be interested in research that had different subject groups such as those born vaginally, or through C-section, those who had illnesses at birth, and do longitudinal research through in home surveys as well as annual surveys sent to the home, and perhaps collecting samples such as fecal samples annually or when antibiotics or other intense treatments were administered to see how the microbiome changes through time/environmental conditions. The ideal study would include a very large and diverse sample size, so we could see trends across many individuals.
I think seeing the microbiome change through time, and seeing the responses of the microbiomes from environmental factors such as antibiotics would open a lot of doors for further research. If we saw trends among the young in responses to certain antibiotics or other medical treatments, and saw that these affected the microbiome/individual in harmful ways, it could be a leap into new considerations for treatment, and potentially a door to preventative care/information. If it was more of a study, rather than an experiment, and we could ethically watch the young as they develop without intervening, I think ethically it may be okay with parental consent… Perhaps a longitudinal study is what we need to really understand how human microbiomes change through time and to responses from the environment.