ECETOC gathered together a high-powered group of gut microbiome specialists in an expert meeting to assess progress in research, pool existing knowledge into a white paper and identify gaps for further research.
The gut microbiome consists of trillions of micro-organisms, mainly bacteria but also fungi, viruses and a huge variety of other single-celled animals living in the gastrointestinal tract.
This microbiota is implicated in important body functions such as extracting calories from indigestible parts of the diet, synthesising vitamins and amino acids, developing the immune system, maintaining energy balance, processing bile acids and fats, detoxifying potentially harmful chemicals, preventing infections, forming new blood vessels and many other functions. It is sometimes referred to as the body’s ‘second liver’.
Gut microbiota is extremely varied from one body to another, as it depends on numerous factors such as diet, lifestyle, environment, host genetics, age, exposure to antibiotics and so on.
Participants at the expert meeting, held in Porto, Portugal, in July last year, included scientists and professors from prestigious research institutes, universities and companies, all of whom are carrying out research into the gut microbiome impact on host health and disease.
On the first day of the meeting, there were ten scientific presentations made to the group. Participants then developed a list of questions that need to be addressed to guide further research into gut microbiome metabolic activity. In particular, they offered new research ideas for CEFIC LRI’s ELUMICA project, which aims to develop a systematic understanding of the various metabolic reactions and the capacity of the intestinal microbiome and interindividual variability in humans and rats.
The meeting will also potentially enable future collaborations between the experts and their respective labs.
The full expert group report can be found here.