The human microbiome is composed of trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi living in and on the human body. In 2007, the Human Microbiome Project characterized the microbiomes at five different body sites including the ski, gastrointestinal tract, oral cavity, nasal passages and urogenital tract in healthy human subjects, thereby improving the understanding of the microbiome’s role in human health and disease.
Under normal physiological conditions, the microbiome is a homeostatic ecosystem with several essential functions in host physiology. However, disruption of this homeostasis, called dysbiosis, leads to the translocation of microbes and their metabolites along the epithelial barrier. This induces systemic inflammation that may lead to tissue destruction and promote the onset of various diseases. We are investigating associations of the gut microbiome with several eye diseases. Our state-of-the-art bioinformatics pipeline analysing whole-metagenome shotgun sequencing data allows the dissection of compositional and associated functional profiles of the gut microbes.
There are several known niches of the human microbiome including the skin and oral cavity. Surprisingly, there is also a little known niche of the ocular surface. Its microbial composition, called the ocular surface microbiome, remains limited and still needs more investigation. We are disentangling the interplay between the microbial composition on the ocular surface and proteins in tear fluid and potential impacts on ocular health and disease in humans and mouse models.