Login Se connecter

Blog Archive

Blog Archive

The Human Microbiome

April 2017

The calendar is flipping to a new month, and April brings a new topic for the Step 2 discussion forum and blog. This month I'll be sharing with you as much information as I can about the human microbiome. This is a very new, scientifically speaking, field of study since the term was coined in 2001 by researcher Joshua Lederberg. Let's start with some commonly agreed upon terminology:


  1. Microbiota: the group or groups of microbial organisms within humans
  2. Microbiome: the typing of these microbes and their genes
  3. Metagenomics: the study of marker genes of the DNA

"The human microbiota consists of the 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells harbored by each person, primarily bacteria in the gut; the microbiome consists of the genes these cells harbor,” say researchers Ursel, Metcalf, Parfrey and Knight in a 2013 study. In that publication, they discuss many interesting questions about what makes us humans, how the microbiome changes over time, and in response to our diet, medications, and environment. It is complicated although fascinating read.

Because this is such a new field of study, there are still many unanswered questions and new findings coming out every month. Here are a few noted findings at this point:

  • The human genome has about 22,000 known genes. The gut gene catalog is 3.3 million non-repeating genes... those of our species and many others!
  • Individual humans are about 99.9% identical to one another in terms of their genome. We are, though, 80-90% different from each other in terms of the microbiota of the hand or the gut. In fact, human fingertips can transfer our own unique microbial signature onto keyboards, each one so individual that it is possible to link a specific person with up to 95% accuracy when compared to a database of others' hands.
  • There is mounting evidence that shows a strong link between a host's microbiota and digestion/metabolism. Changing one's diet can produce significant changes to the gut microbes in as little as one day.
  • Gut microbiota play an important role in obesity. Studies in genetically-bred mice show that "lean” mice, when given a genetic seeding of microbes from "obese” mice will quickly begin adding fat without increasing their food intake. Modulation of a patient's microbiota might be a therapeutic option for promoting weight loss in obese patients or promoting weight gain in underweight children. Only time will tell.
  • Antibiotic treatment has some negative effects, especially the use of broad-spectrum choices that significantly alter the host's innate gut microbiota. Following treatment, some patients returned to a pre-treatment state within a week, but others failed to ever return to their pre-treatment microbes. The re-establishment of some species can be affected for up to four years following the use of antibiotics. We really don't know what that might mean for humans as a general population, or for each individual person.

In the coming posts for April, I will provide you with book titles, reference articles, websites, and more to hopefully increase your hunger for more on the topic of microbiomes!


Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, BSPsy, RN, IBCLC, RLC, FILCA

Professional Development Educator



Ursell, L.K., Metcalf, J.L., Parfrey, L.W., and Knight, R.  (2013).  Defining the human microbiome.  Nutr Rev.; 70(Suppl 1): S38-S44.

Remember me Login Se connecter Logging in...
Submit Sending... Sent! Clear
Submit Sending... Sent! Clear

This Privacy Policy describes how your personal information is collected, used, and shared when you visit or make a purchase from https://step2education.com (the "Site").


When you visit the Site, we automatically collect certain information about your device, including information about your web browser, IP address, time zone, and some of the cookies that are installed on your device. Additionally, as you browse the Site, we collect information about the individual web pages or products that you view, what websites or search terms referred you to the Site, and information about how you interact with the Site. We refer to this automatically-collected information as Device Information."

We collect Device Information using the following technologies:

  • "Cookies" are data files that are placed on your device or computer and often include an anonymous unique identifier. For more information about cookies, and how to disable cookies, visit http://www.allaboutcookies.org.
  • "Log files" track actions occurring on the Site, and collect data including your IP address, browser type, Internet service provider, referring/exit pages, and date/time stamps.
  • "Web beacons," "tags," and "pixels" are electronic files used to record information about how you browse the Site.

Additionally when you make a purchase or attempt to make a purchase through the Site, we collect certain information from you, including your name, billing address, shipping address, payment information (including credit card numbers), email address, and phone number. We refer to this information as "Order Information."

  • Users who are undertaking a course as part of a group or organization have certain data tracked as part of the service we provide to Clients and Facilitators. This includes information showing if you have logged in and when, dates of completion and what and when particular study topics, resources and assessments were viewed and completed. We refer to this information as "Student Access Information"

When we talk about "Personal Information" in this Privacy Policy, we are talking about Device Information, Order Information and Student Access Information.


We use the Order Information that we collect generally to fulfill any orders placed through the Site (including processing your payment information, arranging for shipping, and providing you with invoices and/or order confirmations). Additionally, we use this Order Information to:

  • Communicate with you;
  • Screen our orders for potential risk or fraud; and
  • When in line with the preferences you have shared with us, provide you with information or advertising relating to our products or services.

We use Student Access Information to provide accurate tracking to Users and Clients on completion and use of the courses, as well as for analysis on how to improve our services.

We use the Device Information that we collect to help us screen for potential risk and fraud (in particular, your IP address), and more generally to improve and optimize our Site (for example, by generating analytics about how our customers browse and interact with the Site, and to assess the success of our marketing and advertising campaigns).


We share your Personal Information with third parties to help us use your Personal Information, as described above. For example, with your employer who needs to verify your completion or progress of your studies. We also use Google Analytics to help us understand how our customers use the Site--you can read more about how Google uses your Personal Information here: https://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/privacy/. You can also opt-out of Google Analytics here: https://tools.google.com/dlpage/gaoptout.

Finally, we may also share your Personal Information to comply with applicable laws and regulations, to respond to a subpoena, search warrant or other lawful request for information we receive, or to otherwise protect our rights.


As described above, we use your Personal Information to provide you with targeted advertisements or marketing communications we believe may be of interest to you. For more information about how targeted advertising works, you can visit the Network Advertising Initiative's ("NAI") educational page at https://www.networkadvertising.org/understanding-online-advertising/how-does-it-work.

You can opt out of targeted advertising by:

Additionally, you can opt out of some of these services by visiting the Digital Advertising Alliance's opt-out portal at: http://optout.aboutads.info.


Please note that we do not alter our Site's data collection and use practices when we see a Do Not Track signal from your browser.


If you are a European resident, you have the right to access personal information we hold about you and to ask that your personal information be corrected, updated, or deleted. If you would like to exercise this right, please contact us through the contact information below.

Additionally, if you are a European resident we note that we are processing your information in order to fulfill contracts we might have with you (for example if you make an order through the Site), or otherwise to pursue our legitimate business interests listed above. Additionally, please note that your information will be transferred outside of Europe, including to Canada and the United States.


When you place an order through the Site, we will maintain your Order Information and Student Access Information for our records unless and until you ask us to delete this information. We are required to keep course completion records for at least 5 years in order to comply with certain accreditation requirements.


We may update this privacy policy from time to time in order to reflect, for example, changes to our practices or for other operational, legal or regulatory reasons.


For more information about our privacy practices, if you have questions, or if you would like to make a complaint, please contact us by e-mail at info@step2education.com or by mail using the details provided below:

5890 Monkland Avenue, #16, Montreal, QC, H4A 1G2, Canada

Last Updated: September 2018