Microbii longa vita brevis experimentum periculosum…
[At the outset, we apologize for tampering with the first word of the well-known Latin aphorism (ars longa etc.) – the arts are many, life short and experimentation perilous – to suit our subject. However, given the enormous amount of information we encountered, and the possibilities that we glimpsed, the temptation was irresistible.]
The Gut Microbiota and Probiotic Science Foundation (India) (GMPSF) has been hosting yearly symposia on different themes related to microbiomes and probiotics for more than a decade now. This year, the 13th edition titled “Science-based evidence on the benefits of probiotics for human health” was co-organized with the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences, New Delhi. As is the usual format, it featured oral and poster presentations by researchers who work on the human microbiota, and their known or potential roles in health and disease. The sheer variety of presentations by expert researchers and physician scientists was astounding and drove home the larger ecological message that, in a biological sense, the earth is a planet of microbes. Indeed, multi-cellular organisms are beholden for the various ecosystem services provided by invisible multitudes in various contexts, including in our case, human biology. After all, from a microbe’s viewpoint, humans are merely one among several available habitats.
Among the notable sessions were sessions on using probiotics as vaccine immunity boosters and improve patient outcomes in communicable and non-communicable diseases. The poster presentations specifically provided opportunities for young researchers (doctoral students and post-docs) to present work in progress that had not made it to the literature. Of course, the presenters of the best three posters were recognized by Young Investigator Awards and were also provided a platform to explain their research with an oral presentation.
In all honesty, it proved very difficult to choose between presenters in terms of content or quality. Broadly, two types of presentations were made – reviews of the state-of-the-art on a particular topic and reports of particular research initiatives. Both invariably excited one’s curiosity and desire to learn, while forcefully bringing home the realization that so much was yet to be learned – hence the wistful Latin aphorism, suitably modified. The last was especially important, given that students comprised a majority of the audience. The feeling of the vastness of this field was further reinforced (or enforced?) by the distribution of an edited volume titled “Gut Microbiome, Probiotics & Good Health: The Evidence Gets Stronger” to all attendees. Its eclectic mix of contents can be viewed here.
Finally, the imprint of COVID-19 should not escape unremarked. It was quite a refreshing experience to revisit in person a new edition of a yearly symposium that I last attended in 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a nationwide lockdown and forced conferences to migrate online. In this 13th edition of the symposium, we witnessed the seamless integration of online presentations with the live program, which included speakers fielding questions from the audience. The organizers and their support staff deserve our compliments and thanks for their professionalism and competence that made the process seemingly effortless.
Poster image from Fig. 3B in Mondragón-Palomino et al. (2022)1 under the under the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY).
1. Mondragón-Palomino et al. (2022). Three-dimensional imaging for the quantification of spatial patterns in microbiota of the intestinal mucosa. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 119(18):e2118483119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2118483119.
Disclaimer: The above post is not medical advice. No guarantee is expressed or implied regarding the veracity and medical utility of the information provided on external websites and sources. The opinions expressed herein do not represent the views of the TERI School of Advanced Studies or TERI or the symposium organizers. The author declares that he has no conflict of interest with any of the organizers of the symposium.