“The human microbiome is the body organ you didn’t know you had,” says Dr. Eva Berkes, co-founder of Sarasota’s Quorum Innovations at the Hawthorne Clinic and Research Center. “It basically calls for a re-examination of human physiology and disease.”
Basically, she explains, your body has about 10 trillion cells. But on top of that, your body is also supporting an additional 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes—collectively called the microbiome. These microbes are in the middle of everything—the immune system, digestion, you name it. So when they get out of whack, health issues arise. “Diseases such as psoriasis, asthma, eczema, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer and heart disease are associated with an abnormal human microbiome,” says Berkes.
Have you been eating probiotics to regulate your bowels? (As some folks like to say, your “gut flora”?) Ladies, do you make it a point to eat active-culture yogurt when you’re on antibiotics to help avoid potential yeast infections? These are all in the realm of the microbiome.
“Yeast ‘infections’ are actually not true infections at all but are actually an overgrowth of Candida we all have as part of our own natural microbiome,” Berkes explains. “Overgrowth occurs due to suppression (death) of the beneficial microbiota (bacteria) caused by the antibiotic, since it non-selectively kills good with the bad.”
In fact, the overuse of antibiotics--especially broad-spectrum antibiotics--is one of the major issues affecting the health of today’s microbiomes, in addition to other aspects of modern living, like diet. “Unfortunately, most of our current microbiology tests are stuck in the 19th century and cannot diagnose 99 percent of clinical infection rapidly,” says Berkes. “This means the practical use of selective antibiotics remains elusive, even if such things did exist (and we at Quorum Innovations are working on them).”
The term “microbiome” itself is less than 15 years old, and its potential is only now beginning to be explored—which puts Quorum Innovations’ research at the forefront of an emerging field. The organization is hoping to develop over-the-counter products derived from the human microbiome for common conditions like eczema and chronic sinus issues, as well as FDA-approved drugs for multi-drug resistant bacteria and disease-causing biofilms, including MRSA and the “nightmare” bacteria Klebsiella pneumonia.