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Metabolites, germs and people: Human-associated microbial communities in health and disease

Katrine Whiteson, PhD

Dr. Katrine Whiteson is interested in understanding how individual and persistent human-­‐associated microbial and viral communities affect health. Infection with a bacterial pathogen, vaccination, immune development and even taking a Tylenol does not occur in a vacuum. We evolved in the presence of the dynamic microbial and viral communities that constantly inhabit our bodies, encoding the majority of unique metabolic genes. She uses metagenomics, metabolomics, microbiology and ecological statistics to answer questions about how bacteria and viruses affect human health. The hypothesis underlying my work is that human-­‐associated microbial communities are powerful indicators of health and disease. Dr. Whiteson will introduce recent discoveries about human-­‐associated microbial communities enabled by access to high-­‐ throughput sequencing in the last 5-­‐10 years, and present three research projects examining the composition and activity of microbial communities using metagenomic sequence data from 1) healthy humans, 2) malnourished children who develop a devastating facial gangrene with no clear infectious cause, and 3) Cystic Fibrosis patients.

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