Reflect on the peer-review process with you as the reviewer. How did it feel to read and critique someone else’s writing? What did you learn that you can apply to your own writing as you revise your final essay?
Being the reviewer, it was tricky trying to understand their thesis since I wasn’t familiar with the various studies that they analyzed. It was a great experience because I got to learn new things. I learned that terms may need a bit more explanation. I found myself getting a bit confused when terms weren’t explained directly. I tried to apply that to my own essay.
If I had the opportunity to select a project that would receive funding, I’d choose the project that looked at birth control. I’m interested to see how the use of exogenous hormones affects the gut microbiota as well as the vaginal and uterine microbiota. I’m also curious how copper IUDs affect uterine microbiota. More and more women are relying on birth control methods to prevent pregnancy, alleviate menstrual symptoms or to help treat endometriosis. Unfortunately many women also experience cruel side effects. It would be interesting to look at the microbiome before and after birth control use to see if microbes could be influencing side effects or even birth control failure. As more women are turning to birth control methods, I think this will be worthwhile to investigate. I’d hope results will help pharmaceutical companies and engineers to develop birth control methods that won’t alter the microbiota too drastically if that is the case. If there is no change or fluctuation while on birth control, then we’ll know that microbes are not a factor in side effects or failure.
Non-Infectious Diseases influence by microbes:
- Heart Disease
- Mental Illness
Each week, I’ve learned more about how the microbiome could potentially alter other organ systems. This diseases I listed above were not ones I’d associate with microbes. My main take away from this course is that microbes influence health, more than I’ve considered. Perhaps this is something people should be more aware about. If I’m ever faced with prescriptions or treatments, I will definitely consider the impacts they could possibly have on my microbiota and long term effects that could be associated with that. I hope that biomedical engineers and doctors can work together to create new treatments that consider the individual microbiome.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Nuriel-Ohayon M, Neuman H, Omry Koren. 2016. Microbial Changes During Pregnancy, Infancy and Birth.