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Microbial Darwinian Medicine: A Workshop at the Interface of Medicine and Microbial Eco-Evolutionary Biology
Description and Aim
Human health is increasingly recognized to also depend on consortia of bacteria that interact with each other and the host. Bacterial communities in the gut microbiome are for example essential for nutrient absorption and protection against pathogens, and changes in the microbial associates can contribute to e.g. diabetes, obesity and antibiotic-resistant infections (such as infections of the urinary tract and the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, and irritable bowel syndrome). Theoretical and experimental biology has been instrumental in elucidating how microbial interactions shape the stability of microbial consortia, and particularly how interventions, such as antibiotic treatment, affect their (co)existence. This is directly relevant from a medical perspective, but the application of evolutionary and genomic approaches to understand clinical systems has been limited. Darwinian medicine seeks to do just that.
Great advances in sequencing tools and bioinformatics help us to better understand which bacteria are where, how their genomes evolve over time, and how pathogens and antibiotic resistance traits are transmitted over time. However, there are many challenges in the interpretation of data and the translation of results into improved clinical tools and practices. For example, are mutations in pathogens during infection adaptations to the host-environment, or an adaptation to inter-bacterial interactions? And are ecological shifts in the microbiome the cause or effect of disease? This workshop will address the current understanding of how changes in the microbiome affect human health, and how we can move from correlative patterns to causative effects. To do so we need a joint approach, which transcends the boundaries of clinical, comparative genomic, and experimental biological fields.
This workshop will bring together a group of scientists from clinical, genomic/bioinformatic, and evolutionary biology backgrounds. Each day of the workshop has a theme, and the stage is set with a combination of longer and shorter (PechaKucha style) presentations. The speakers of the day will join subgroups of participants for in-depth discussions, followed by a plenary synthesis discussion. Rotating group compositions, poster presentations and informal socializing will facilitate the aim of furthering the interdisciplinary field of microbial Darwinian medicine.