Gut bacteria and antibiotics: Michael Fischbach looks for answers

I’m Michael Fischbach. I’m in the Department
of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at UCSF, and I’m the PI on a new grant from
the Keck Foundation that’s titled Beyond the Human Microbiome Project: The Gut Microbiome
as an Antibiotic Discovery Factory. The purpose of this grant is to try to begin
figuring out an interesting conundrum that’s only come about in recent years, and that
is that different people have different kinds of bacteria living in their gut, and it turns
out that that’s really important because there are correlations between the kind of
bacteria you have living in your gut, and diseases like Crohn’s Disease and obesity. So we’re taking an interesting approach
to looking at why different people have different kinds of bacteria in their gut, and that is
to look at the bacteria themselves. The reason we’re doing that is because bacteria, among
other things, make drugs. That might sound crazy but, in fact, many of the antibiotics
and anticancer agents that people use in hospitals these days come from bacteria themselves.
It turns out that it’s not just crazy bacteria living on the corners of the planet that make
these drugs, it’s actually bacteria living on and inside of human beings, and that’s
a very recent finding that we’ve had. And so the purpose of this grant is for us
to investigate which antibiotics are being made by specific bacteria living inside of
different peoples’ guts, and then to try to figure out what affect those antibiotics
have on other bacteria living there, and how all of that comes together to create a different
community in me than in some of you. A project like this requires the dedicated
efforts not just of someone like me, but of a group of people with a wide range of areas
of expertise. And so I have three great collaborators on this project. The first one is Justin Sonnenburg
from Stanford University. The second one is David Relman, also from Stanford University.
And the third one is Peter Dorrestein from UCSD. Our hope is that in the future, given a greater
understanding of why different people have one kind of bacterium in their gut versus
another, that this will open the door to new drugs to treat conditions like Crohn’s Disease,
where probably the causative element is a combination of change in human genetics, and
also a change in the bacteria that are present. If we can address both of those, then we’ll
be in much better position to create an effective drug. [End of Audio]
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