Learning how the human microbiome affects health and behavior


Infectious Diseases and the Science of Microbiomes

The Challenge: Infectious disease is the major cause of death in low-income countries, and emerging infectious diseases threaten countries worldwide. Many diseases and viruses have their origin in animals, insects, or the environment. In Arizona, the impact of Valley Fever is widely known, and offers a model of success in understanding the biological processes that have shaped the development of novel treatments. Zika, for example, is carried by the type of mosquito that is prevalent in Arizona, and yet does not carry the disease – which offers an opportunity for intervention to reduce disease. Meanwhile, more is learned every day about the role of the human microbiome (both bacteria and viruses), which intimately affects both health and behavior, particularly for respiratory diseases that are considered to result from a combination of genes, environment, and lifestyle.

UA Advantage: An interdisciplinary group of researchers from immunobiology, ecology and evolutionary biology, animal and comparative biomedical sciences, public health and other areas have significant strengths in this field and are pushing the boundaries of knowledge. For example, through a Flinn Foundation-supported pilot grant, researchers isolated and identified the virome of the human lung in health and infection. Others are leaders in understanding how the gut-brain interface is modulated by bacteria or in modeling the spread of infectious agents. Also, transdisciplinary scholars are collaborating to understand how variation in the mosquitos in Arizona may inform strategies to stop the transmission of Zika, and keep Arizona free of this disease. BIO5 will help integrate these disciplines to enable new discoveries of the role of microbes in human health and disease.