SEP 13, 2018 6:00 AM PDT

The Hurricane Microbiome Project: Environmental Exposures and Population Health

Speaker
  • Professor and Interim Chairman, Baylor College of Medicine
    Biography
      Joseph F. Petrosino, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine and the Director of the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research. He holds joint appointments in the Human Genome Sequencing Center, Department of Ophthalmology, and is a member of the Cell and Molecular Biology and Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine programs.

      He obtained his undergraduate degree in microbiology and immunology with a distinction in research from the University of Rochester, followed by a PhD degree in microbiology and immunology from Baylor College of Medicine. He completed postdoctoral fellowship training in genetics at Baylor College of Medicine and was a Research Associate in the Human Genome Sequencing Center working on the functional genomics of biodefense and emerging infectious disease.

      He was hired as a tenure-track faculty member at BCM in 2006 with a National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases funded Career Development Award Project from the Western Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Disease. His ongoing comparative genomics studies of Francisella tularensis, a pathogenic bacterium with the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety, have helped move the field closer to the goal of creating new rationally-designed attenuated and/or subunit vaccines for this Category A select agent.

      In 2007, Dr. Petrosino and his colleagues obtained funding through the NIH Common Fund for the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). As a large-scale sequencing center Principal Investigator for the HMP, Dr. Petrosino assisted in the lead of consortium efforts for standardized clinical sample preparation, sequencing, and analysis. This allowed microbial communities from diverse body sites and niches to be compared with minimal technical bias and has led to study design standards that are being implemented internationally.

      As a result of the success of his efforts and to extend metagenomics and microbiome studies at BCM, the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research (CMMR) was established in January 2011, with Dr. Petrosino serving as its Director. Currently, the CMMR is pursuing over 200 metagenomics projects in humans and model systems with the goal to improve human health through detection and modulation of the microbes that reside on and in us and to translate these efforts into new diagnostics and therapeutics. Among the latest CMMR projects initiated is an $11.8M microbiome analysis of 18,000+ Type 1 Diabetes samples from the NIH/NIDDK TEDDY (The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young) study.

      Dr. Petrosino has authored 40 original papers. Among 14 published in 2012 are the June HMP flagship manuscripts in Nature, collaborative studies examining microbiome associations with Cystic Fibrosis, pregnancy, nutritional intervention in colitis, rotavirus infection, and the shaping of the microbiome from birth in murine systems. He has been an invited to speak at numerous institutions and meetings nationally and internationally, and recently he has been named an American Society for Microbiology Distinguished Lecturer for 2012-2014.

    Abstract

    The Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research (CMMR) at Baylor College of Medicine is pursuing numerous research and development efforts in the study of how the microbiome impacts human disease and how this knowledge can be translated into novel therapeutics and diagnostics. Among these efforts is a new study involving the impact of major disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, where associated flooding and other environmental exposures to chemicals or pathogens (e.g. mold), and their impact on human health, may be reflected in the microbiome of exposed individuals.  During Hurricane Harvey, Houston, Texas experienced 50 inches of rain and catastrophic flooding. This flooding caused uncontrolled releases into the environment from over a dozen Superfund sites and several chemical/petroleum facilities. In response to this disaster, we along with collaborators from Oregon State University, worked with affected communities to administer health questionnaires, deploy wristbands that detect chemical exposures, and collect biosamples for nasal, oral and gut microbiome analysis in the first 30 days after flooding, targeting 300 individuals. We are in the process of collecting a second set of data 12-months post-Hurricane Harvey from the same individuals to examine the long-term impact of this environmental disaster. These data will be integrated to identify potential exposures that adversely affect health, including in individuals with predisposition to certain diseases such as asthma. If environmental exposures and potential associated health risks are reflected in changes in the microbiome, then these microbiome associations can serve as targets or biomarkers for actionable, post-disaster responses or interventions.

    Learning Objectives: 

    1. How does one deploy a microbiome study during a time of crisis.
    2. What fundamental information should be collected when sampling the human microbiome.


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