We are only beginning to understand the depth of influence the billions of microorganisms in our gut – our gut microbiome – has on our wider health.
Our researchers are unravelling the relationship between our gut, diet and our immune system to help improve health outcomes in the areas of allergic, inflammatory and infectious diseases.
Our bodies are home to trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi. Collectively, these microorganisms are known as the microbiome, and they play an essential yet poorly understood role in human health and wellbeing. Which microorganisms are beneficial and which are less so is an important area of research and discovery. We are also investigating how the immune system – the body’s defence system – navigates this complicated relationship and how it's influenced by the microbiome, and vice versa.
The microbiome has been shown to increase or decrease the effectiveness of certain vaccines, including the flu vaccine. As part of the High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge, we’re investigating whether diet can influence the gut microbiome and improve efficacy of the influenza vaccine.
Cross-talk between the skin and the gut is another focus of our research, looking at how molecules produced in the skin during an allergic response can influence the gut and the gut’s sensitivity to an allergen.
The Malaghan Institute has initiated a benchmark clinical study investigating how human hookworm alter the human immune system, dampening down the immune response, and whether this mechanism has potential therapeutic benefit in a range of allergic and other immune-mediated diseases.
Phototherapy is currently one of the most effective treatments for allergic skin conditions like eczema, but why it works so well is yet to be fully understood. However, we have identified a promising new way to improve phototherapy efficacy and prevent the chronic inflammation that leads to the development of this disease.