Science

Human microbe projects get $14M from Ottawa

More than $14 million in federal funding over five years will support research into the trillions of microbes that both help keep people healthy and cause disease.

CIHR funds research probing bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in humans

More than $14 million in federal funding over five years will support research into the trillions of microbes that both help keep people healthy and cause disease.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research announced the funding for seven research projects investigating the microbiome —  the bacteria, viruses and fungi that live on and in humans — on Thursday at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto.

"The goal of this initiative is to discover which microbial communities exist in different parts of the human body and to explore how these communities impact and influence human health or disease," Dr. Marc Ouellette, scientific director for CIHR, said in a news release.

The researchers and projects in the Canadian Microbiome Initiative include:

  • David Guttman of the University of Toronto, whose team is studying the role bacteria, viruses and fungi play in the severity and progression of lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis. For example, whether the microbes exacerbate the disease.
  • Anita Kozyrskyj, an epidemiologist at the University of Alberta, is co-director of a cross-Canada team investigating whether giving antibiotics in the first year of life triggers asthma and allergies later in childhood by harming the bacterial balance in the intestine that helps the body absorb nutrients and protects against harmful bugs.
  • In Vancouver, Dr. Deborah Money of the Women's Health Research Institute is leading a project to examine vaginal organisms to determine what a healthy bacterial balance is for women to protect against sexually transmitted infections and prevent miscarriage and pre-term birth.
  • Dr. Ken Croitoru, a gastroenterologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, will sequence the DNA of microbes in the digestive system that might play a role in the development of inflammatory bowel disease.

The research teams are based in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Genome British Columbia, the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada, and the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation are also jointly providing $1.4 million in funding.

With files from The Canadian Press

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