What current and upcoming developments in your field are you most excited about?
A most exciting development is the realization that without microbes there would be no plants, animals or humans, as all life on Earth is dependent on microbes to provide essential functions and services. Biologists are now recognizing that humans are dependent on intimate, evolutionarily relationships with many different kinds of microbes. In this paradigm, microbes that have been used for thousands of years for naturally preserving foods, are now considered for disease prevention and therapeutics. We are only starting to uncover the tip of the power of microbes.
What challenges need to be tackled in your field?
Considerable advances have been made recently in characterizing composition and roles of microbes and microbial ecosystems, for example in nutrition and human health, thanks to the tremendous advances in the next generation sequencing. One main challenge is to move the research from description to mechanisms. To succeed will require re-training and further improving traditional cultivation-based methods and basic knowledge in microbial physiology, especially in the highly challenging space of strict gut anaerobes.
What impact does your research/work have on societal issues?
Over the past 10 years, in collaboration with nutritionists and medical teams in SubSaharan Africa we showed that provision of iron to weaning infants adversely affects the gut microbiome, increasing pathogen abundance and causing intestinal inflammation and morbidity. After uncovering the mechanisms of iron, we developed and applied novel micronutrient powder formulations with high bioavailable iron and prebiotic GOS to mitigate the adverse effects of the iron on the infant gut microbiota.
EFFoST is looking forward to Prof. Dr. Christophe Lacroix's presentation at the next EFFoST International Conference. For more information on his work please visit the ETH website.