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NIST Colloquium: The Role of the Human Microbiota in Health and Disease

Claire M. Fraser-Liggett
Director, Institute for Genome Sciences  
University of Maryland School of Medicine


Microbiota Illustration
Credit: National Human Genome Research Institute
The human species is dependent for its survival upon the activities of billions of microorganisms that inhabit multiple environmental niches within and on the human body. While many of these organisms exist in a mutually beneficial relationship with the human host, others are opportunistic pathogens that can cause both chronic infections and life-threatening diseases. Unfortunately our view of microbial-host interactions is extremely limited since the overwhelming majority of microbial species (>99%) resists cultivation in the laboratory. This presentation focuses on the conceptual and experimental challenges associated with the newly launched Human Microbiome Project, with particular emphasis on the human gastrointestinal tract since it is home to the largest number of our microbial partners. The goals are to establish links between these microorganisms and disease, their roles in development of the immune system, and their overall impact on human evolution.

Anyone outside NIST wishing to attend must be sponsored by a NIST employee and receive a visitor badge. For more information, call Kum J. Ham at 301-975-4203.

Colloquia are videotaped and available in the NIST Research Library.

Created April 20, 2010, Updated September 27, 2016