Recent articles in Science and Nature argue for the creation of an international effort to study the earth's microbiome.
An International Microbiome Initiative (IMI) is needed, argue researchers from China, the United States and Europe in a Comment piece in this week’s Nature. “Earth’s biome is not defined by national borders”, write Nicole Dubilier, Margaret McFall-Ngai and Liping Zhao; in their view “efforts to unlock its secrets should go global”.
It is becoming increasingly clear that understanding the role of the Earth’s microbial community (the microbiome) in the biosphere and in human health will be key to meeting many of humanity’s challenges, from energy to disease. However, two factors are impeding progress: the fragmentation of the life sciences and a lack of coordination among the various microbiome research endeavours already under way around the world.
Although some have suggested that a US-based microbiome initiative should be created, Dubilier and colleagues contend that an IMI is needed as an overarching organization to foster collaboration and coordination. “So much can be gained by creating an IMI,” they conclude, whereas “further uncoordinated national microbiome programmes will almost certainly waste research efforts and taxpayers’ money”.