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Headshot - Kim Matheson

Kim Matheson

The Canadian Health Adaptations, Innovation, and Mobilization (CHAIM) Centre, Carleton University

Hymie Anisman

Hymie Anisman

The Canadian Health Adaptations, Innovation, and Mobilization (CHAIM) Centre, Carleton University

Probiotic supplements to improve health. Medical treatments involving fecal exposure. Restrictive fad diets. The pros and cons of antibiotics. Risks associated with water-borne bacteria.

How does a person sort through all the emerging claims linked to microbiota? What do we know? What isn’t known? What’s speculation or hype?


A One Health Approach

The past two decades witnessed a proliferation of research on microbiota that links microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, archaea, and protozoa to health and well-being. Commensal bacterial species (those that derive benefits from other bacteria or the host) live in harmony with other bacteria (eubiosis), but when the balance between diverse bacteria is disturbed (dysbiosis), the risk for a broad variety of mental and physical illnesses might be elevated. We know that diverse microbiota is good. Hence the proliferation of probiotic supplements on the market. But which microbiota are associated with beneficial outcomes, and what constitutes balances and disturbances in microbiota varies across individuals, genetics, cultures, environments, and pre-existing exposures.

A One Health approach underscores the notion that disease prevention and the health of the planet, more generally, requires an appreciation of the intersections between humans, animals, plants, and environment. In this respect, varied global and regional factors may alter the abundance and dysbiosis of microbiota. This includes environmental contamination, climate change, degradation of ecosystems, food and water safety, natural resource management, antimicrobial resistance, emergence of new diseases, and zoonotic diseases, to name but a few. Taking a comprehensive transdisciplinary One Health approach to understand the microbiome increases the likelihood of creating a knowledge base that acknowledges the intricate and complex relationships among the many factors that influence human health. And raises questions about the validity of simplistic interventions.

Interdisciplinary Partnerships

Through communication and collaborations across disciplines, sectors, and institutions, the CHAIM Center brings to the forefront the need to review the evidence regarding human health to consider the unique political, social and environmental conditions that exist in Canada, and to promote Canadian research to address global health issues.​ Through research, training, and competitive challenges, we encourage students to become effective evidence-based science communicators – see their blogs on the microbiome at Our annual One Health Student Challenge inspires participants to work in interdisciplinary teams to tackle global health problems (such as anti-microbial resistance) through critical analysis, design thinking, community engagement, and effective communication of solutions.

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