'Framing' the microbiome


At the Harvard Probiotics Symposium last week I was interviewed by Kristina Campbell about the AMI.  Kristina is on the publishing team for the website Gut Microbiota for Health, a website that connects experts in the microbiome field with the latest research.  She is also a member of the Canadian Science Writers' Association and the author of a great microbiome blog.

She recently wrote an excellent piece for the Canadian Science Writers' blog titled "Picking a Metaphor for Your Microbiome" about the importance of language surrounding the microbiome, and how the microbiome shifts our perspectives on our body and the environment.  

In the blog post she writes,"Every article has its own way of framing the microbiome, whether the writer does it consciously or not," and lists examples when language choice frames the conversation. She goes on to discuss how these perspectives have real consequences, such as the classification of fecal microbiota transplants (FMTs) as drugs rather than organs.

This article resonates with me, especially since my experience with writing this blog for the last month.  I realize the connotation that the word 'microbiome' elicits is hugely important.  Many people fear bacteria and 'germs' to varying degrees.  This manifests in the overuse of antibiotics and in compulsive cleansing.  How we view our own microbiome as friend, foe, or something in between is shaped by our culture.  Some small piece of the cultural attitude is influenced by bloggers and science writers.   It is important to 'frame' the microbiome with as honest a depiction as possible, even when we don't know all the facts.  At the end of the day, each individual will form his or her own mental acquaintance with his or her microbiome.

One of the goals of the AMI is to raise the profile of microbiome science to the general public. We hope we are doing so diligently and responsibly.

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The views expressed in the blog are solely those of the author of the blog and not necessarily the American Microbiome Institute or any of our scientists, sponsors, donors, or affiliates.