BHS 323 Extra Credit Review

In this article, the investigators looked at the microbiota in critically ill children. Not much is known about how serious illness affects the microbiome. The author hypothesized that the loss of diversity, loss of body site specificity and the presence of pathogens at high levels can be associated with microbiota dysbiosis. The intended audience includes health professionals, physicians and other researchers in the biohealth sciences.

I believe the research is valid, the methods the researchers used were proper. This study could guide future research to hopefully capture a better essence of the behavior of the population.  I agree with the author that the research done should be concerning to clinicians and help their understanding the microbiota has on critical illness.

There is a major pitfall to this study. The sample size was very small (n = 37). 37 children are not an accurate representation of the population. Repeatability is not possible because no two children with illness will be the same. Analyzing the same patient may not be plausible for repeatability because doctors will be attempting to treat the illness that they have. I found it surprising that 78 parents declined participation in the study. I’d presume many parents have negative feelings towards research, especially on young children who are ill. In any case, any reason for declining participation should be respected. This brings in an important component to microbiota research (and scientific research in general) is how ethical the experiments are. Scientists should consider if the research being conducted is worth the sacrifice from the subjects compared to what will be discovered.

BHS 323 Writing Exercise #13

  • Can experiments detect differences that matter?
    • It is important to consider if the experimental design produces relevant results.
    • When reading scientific literature, it is also important to consider if the claim the author is making fundamentally connects with the results that the experiment produced.
  • Does the study show causation or correlation?
    • Correlation is a quantitative number that describes the size and direction a variable affects another. This does not mean that the change in one variable is the direct result of the other.
    • Causation means that the results of one event is directly caused by another.
    • Language of scientific literature must be examined carefully because correlation and causation cannot be used interchangeably.
  • What is the mechanism?
    • Often times correlation implies some sort of relationship between the two variables however scientists do not always know the reason.
    • When reading scientific literature, it is important to question the mechanism and why the subject could or could not be behaving a certain way
  • How much do experiments reflect reality?
    • Scientists and researchers design their experiments carefully to ensure that they can draw conclusions with minimal interactions from unwanted variables.
    • In real life and biological systems/organisms specifically, many things are not controlled. Experiments may not always reflect what real life is.
    • Experiments could be too far off from what a real life situation is and readers must understand that before drawing conclusions.
  • Could anything else explain the results?
    • There are so many interactions between the environment and organisms that could affect results.
    • Some may be minor but others could affect experimental results greatly.

Although all bullet points are extremely crucial when reading articles surrounding controversial topics (and any topic that is experimental in science), I believe it is most important to consider how much the experiments reflect reality. Especially when it comes to causations that researchers are trying to prove, it is incredibly difficult to create experiments in the lab that are supposed to represent humans. Many times, a very controlled environment does not accurately represent the environments people live in. Considering if anything else could explain the results is also important. Every person is different and you cannot replicate anyone’s exact microbiome, health conditions and living conditions. There could always be another factor that could change the results than what is being investigated.

BHS 323 Writing Exercise #12

Describe how microbial communities in the body could influence brain and mental health states. Then, describe how brain and mental health states could influence microbial communities in the body. In what ways might these promote health and/or disease?

The brain and mental health states could influence microbial communities through the release of neurotransmitters and hormones.

Small molecule byproducts from microbial communities could travel through sympathetic nerves that affect brain function. Microbes also produce corticosteroids and neurotransmitters themselves.

Since gut and brain are connected to each other, this could affect health greatly one way or another. Microbial communities are very sensitive and are known to cause issues if drastically altered. Mental health affects physical health and vice versa.

BHS 323 Writing Exercise #10

The author of the article complies the relevant data, observations, methods and discussions and submits the piece to the journal they wish to have their work published in. The journal editor then screens the paper to see if the content is worth while. If so, the editor selects reviewers who are established professionals and researchers in the field. These reviewers then go over the paper and submit revisions or suggestions that could help improve the work or suggest it to be rejected. This could be troublesome because typically the reviewers are anonymous but the authors are not. Reviewers could be biased towards certain people or topics leading to an unfair review process.  Since only a few people are reviewing, mistakes could be overlooked as well.

BHS 323 Writing Exercise #9

List and describe as many changes in human behaviors as you can think of that contribute to decreased exposure to microbes.

  • Keeping the household, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, office space (i.e., anywhere a person spends a lot of time) clean will decrease exposure to microbes. Not letting food or drinks sit for a long period of time and making sure food doesn’t reach the stage of rotting and growing cultures will help as well.
  • Maintaining good personal hygiene.
  • Washing hands before food prep, after bathroom use, after cleaning/dealing with trash etc., will also help decrease exposure to microbes, especially ones that could be harmful.
  • Washing produce before using it to cook.
  • Minimizing/eliminating/avoiding high risk activity such as smoking.
  • Have safe sex/know your partner’s STI/STD status.

BHS 323 Writing Exercise #7

A potential factor that could affect a newborn’s microbial community is how they were delivered.  Vaginal and C-section deliveries have shown to have different microbial communities. In fact, 64-82% of MRSA skin infections in newborns are delivered via C-section. If the mother received antibiotics during pregnancy could also affect the newborn. Studies have reported that motor skills and brain function have been comprised after pregnant mice received antibiotics.1



  1. Nuriel-Ohayon M, Neuman H, Omry Koren. 2016. Microbial Changes During Pregnancy, Infancy and Birth.


BHS 323 Writing Exercise #8

  1. I’ve learned this term that the microbial communities that reside in our gut are very sensitive to drastic changes such as antibiotics and diet. Something I want to learn more about is how, if hormones affect our gut microbiome. More specifically I am curious about birth control and pregnancy. Certain methods of birth control introduce large amounts of hormones to the body and I’m curious if that has any sort of long or short term effects on gut health. Birth control often has nasty side effects and I wonder if that has anything to do with the gut microbiome. When a women conceives, her hormones also change greatly. I’m curious if pregnant women and women who have had children have microbial communities that are different from the norm.
  2. Birth control affecting gut health.
  3. Women’s reproductive health has always been of interest to me. I believe it’s a field that is very understudied. I’ve attended a few biomedical engineering conferences. There are always so many presentations about neuro, cardio, and ortho but hardly any involving women’s reproductive health. Birth control is always preached by medical practitioners typically without hesitation. It’s dished out similarly to how antibiotics are. I’m really interested to see if anyone has dived in to see if birth control has any effects on our gut health especially since side effects can be so drastic.
  4. I’m excited to start researching papers on this topic.