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The gut microbiota is a highly diverse collection of microbes resident in the GI tract. There are trillions of microbial cells that form part of this ecosystem, and their collective genes outnumber our own human genes by as much as a factor of 100. In recent years we have started to appreciate that these microbes are more than just opportunistic free-riders, and in fact a large majority of them contribute in major ways to our health and well-being. When the delicate balance of the gut microbial ecosystem is disturbed, for example through antibiotic use, the results can be dramatic. In this presentation we will describe the molecular ecologist’s view of a typical C.difficile infection. This example will show how our traditional view of microbes as ‘germs’ must change in order to embrace the important role of the gut microbiota in our health.
Presenter: Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe
Emma Allen-Vercoe completed her BSc (hons.) in Biochemistry at the University of London, UK, and her PhD in Molecular Microbiology (Salmonella research) through the Open University, as part of an industrial placement with the Centre for Applied Microbiological Research, in Porton Down, UK. She came to Canada in 2001 to take up a postdoctoral position working on E.coli O157 at the University of Calgary, and accepted an award in 2005 that allowed her to transition to a faculty position. She started her independent career looking at the human gut microbiota that she brought with her to Guelph in 2007. At the University of Guelph Emma has established the 'Robogut' platform that allows her research group to model the highly complex human gut microbial communities at the bench. This has, in turn, allowed her to develop and sustain a number of research avenues that look at a range of different human diseases and the interplay of the gut microbiota with them. These diseases include Clostridium difficile infection, inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, regressive autism and diabetes.
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