Documents to download

The term human microbiome refers to all of the different microbes that live in and on the human body, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, as well as their genetic information. Recent developments in the field have stimulated interest across a variety of sectors, including agriculture, the marine environment and human health. As a consequence the microbiome market, fuelled by resulting commercial interest, is projected to reach a worth of up to $2.2 billion by 2025.

The human microbiome plays a key role in human health; for example it aids the digestion of food and protects from disease. It is established during infancy, but can change in response to factors such as diet, the environment and antibiotic use. Disturbances in the microbiome are linked to medical conditions such as infection with Clostridium difficile, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and potentially to obesity.

There is potential to exploit knowledge of the microbiome to produce new treatments. Current approaches include the development of drugs, prebiotics, probiotics and faecal microbiota transplants


 POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers (*) for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing including: 

Dr James Leigh (4D Pharma)

Peter Burlinson (BBSRC)*

Dr Alan Walker (University of Aberdeen)*

Professor Tariq Iqbal (University of Birmingham, Chair of Microbiome for health working group)*

Professor Peter Hawkey (University of Birmingham)*

Dr Matthew Brookes (British Society of Gastroenterology)*

Professor Julian Marchesi (University of Cardiff, Imperial College London)*

Edward Green (CHAIN Biotechnology)*

Professor John McLaughlin (CORE, University of Manchester)*

Mary Mcnamara (Department of Health and Social Care)*

Ruth Willis (Food Standards Agency)*

Dr Gordon Ford (Innovate UK)

Dr Jonathan Swann (Imperial College London)*

Dr Lesley Hoyles (Imperial College London)*

Dr David  MacIntyre (Imperial College London)*

Dr David Moyes (Kings College London)

Professor Kevin Whelan (Kings College London)*

Dr Debbie Shawcross (Kings College London)*

Dr Charles Vander Broek (Knowledge Transfer Network)

Dr Chris Jones (MHRA)*

Dr Paul Richards (Microbiology Society)*

Mike Romanos (Microbiotica)

Dr Karen Finney (MRC)

Dr Simon Goldenberg (NHS)

Paul Shercliff (NHS England)*

Dr Jamie Lorimer (University of Oxford)

Andrew Chapple (Quadram Institute)*

Dr Lindsay Hall (Quadram Institute)*

Dr Nathalie Juge (Quadram Institute)

Professor Ian Rowland (University of Reading)*

Professor Glenn Gibson (University of Reading)*

Professor Nigel Klein (University College London)

Professor Paul O’Toole (University College Cork)*

Documents to download

Related posts

  • A POSTnote on preventing zoonotic diseases will review the evidence on a One Health approach to zoonoses prevention. It will focus on the animal-environment-human interface in both wild and domestic animals, reviewing national and international policy approaches, and lessons learnt from previous epidemics. It will also summarise opportunities and challenges for the UK’s role in global health and biosecurity policy arenas post COVID-19. Provisional start date: January 2021.

  • A POSTnote on childhood obesity will summarise the latest trends in children’s diet, obesity and related health conditions and review the impacts of previous policy changes such as the tax on sugar sweetened drinks. It will also examine the factors underlying the growing gap in outcomes for children from the most and least deprived backgrounds. Provisional start date: January 2021.

  • Evolving life sciences and agricultural research approaches may have a decreasing need to access physical resources in future, such as plant seeds or viral material. Information and genetic data may be all that is required for commercial exploitation of biological resources. This POSTnote summarises the challenge this creates for international discussions on the governance of genetic resources and the possible options for addressing these.