Genomics Lite: The Human Microbiome in Focus

Exploring the role of the microbiome in human health and disease


Thu 27th Jan, 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

This session will explore what the the human microbiome is, how advancements in genome sequencing technologies allow researchers to better understand our microbiome, and how the microbiome is linked to human health and disease. The career journey of our guest speaker will also be highlighted.

Our guest speaker for Genomics Lite: The Human Microbiome in Focus is Hilary Browne. Hilary is a staff scientist in the Lawley Lab and the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and he focuses on the different roles of bacteria present in the intestines.

Session recording:

Genomics Lite in Focus is a programme of live webinars to inspire and engage upper secondary school students, teachers and other educational groups. Each talk explores a different field in biology in focus, highlighting how genomics research contributes to understanding the topic.

Each 75 minute session includes a 30 minute talk on the topic, a 15 minute talk about the speakers career journey, and time for Q&A with the audience. Polls and audience questions are used throughout to encourage interaction betweent the audience and the speaker.

Learn more about the human microbiome

These resources are designed to support and further attendees’ understanding of the human microbiome, and are aimed at students in upper secondary years (e.g. year 10 and higher).

What is a microbiome?

  • The word ‘microbiome’ comes from the words ‘micro’ – meaning small, and in biology referring to microbes – and ‘biome’ – referring to naturally occurring organisms occupying a shared habitat.
  • Just as there are different habitats and biomes on earth, the human body contains different ‘habitats’ and different microbiomes. Watch this video to understand the similarities between human microbiomes and the biomes on earth.
  • There are trillions of microbes that make up the human microbiome. This infographic highlights some statistics about the number and diversity of microbes in the human microbiome, and this phylogenetic tree highlights the families of microbes that are commonly found in the human microbiome.
  • The microorganisms that are found in the human microbiome can be described as being in a mutualistic symbiotic relationship with the human body – both the microbes and human benefit from their presence.
  • Where does our microbiome come from? We get our very first microbes during birth and rapidly gain more from every person and object we come into contact with as babies.
  • This video provides an overview of what the microbiome is, how it was first studied, and what we currently know about its links to health and disease:

What can the human microbiome tell us about health and disease?

  • We often associate the presence of microorganisms in the human body with disease, but research is now showing that a lack or imbalance of microorganism can negatively impact our health.
  • Studying the genomes – or metagenome – in the human microbiome can give us a better idea of what microorganisms are present, what their functions are, and what happens if they aren’t present.
  • How can we help our microbiomes? Whilst we are still learning about our microbiomes, eating a diverse range of foods including ‘pro-biotic’ products, exercising and spending time outdoors, and avoiding too much processed foods have been linked to healthier microbiomes.


pdf Genomics Lite Microbiome Learning Pack