There are roughly 100 trillion bacterial cells living in and around your body, but did you know microscopic organisms are all around us and in nearly every habitat on Earth? Those countless microbes include bacteria, fungi, viruses and more—but the truth is we know very little about them. That’s exactly what a group of U.S. scientists is hoping to change.
Forty-eight scientists from dozens of universities and organizations across the country have come together to propose a large-scale collaborative research program to examine Earth’s microbiomes and their impact on human health and our environment. The Unified Microbiome Initiative Consortium (UMIC) would coordinate planning and studies as well as funding in order to further research into the vast numbers of microorganisms on the planet.
“Technology has gotten us to the point where we realize that microbes are like dark matter in the universe,” said Dr. Eoin Brodie with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “We know microbes are everywhere, and are far more complex than we previously thought, but we really need to understand how they communicate and relate to the environment.”
Much will depend upon whether or not the UMIC receives approval and funding, but Dr. Brodie and others involved believe that learning more about how different microbes interact with one another, their hosts, and their unique surroundings may help advance numerous fields of study—from farming and sustainability to fighting antibiotic resistance.