Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

The Human Microbiome in Health and Disease

We are not alone in the little universe we call our body; rather we share it with complex communities of microbes. It is estimated that more than a trillion bacterial cells are present in the human gastrointestinal tract alone. Microbes also grow on our skin, in our mouth, and even up our nose; they are everywhere and collectively this microbiota is referred to as the human microbiome. These microbes are not just passive passengers — they shape our metabolism, health, and likely affect even life span. Simply put, the microbes within the human microbiome play a critical role in determining human health and disease.

This project launches two areas of research in microbiome science — using the human microbiome as a source of new drug leads and identifying metabolites that serve as biomarkers for early life diseases (asthma and autism) and aging diseases (such as Alzheimer’s disease).

The project leverages two UW-Madison population health cohort studies: the Children’s Respiratory Research and Environment Workgroup (CREW), which is tracking the early health and development of about 7,000 children; and the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS), one of the longest-running investigations of human health. In addition to these community samples, the microbiome will be studied in autism and neurodegenerative diseases through collaborators at the Waisman Center and the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

Principal Investigator

  • Cameron Currie
    Professor of Bacteriology

Co-Principal Investigators

  • Andrew Alexander
    Professor of Medical Physics and Psychiatry
  • Rozalyn Anderson
    Associate Professor of Medicine
  • David Andes
    Professor of Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Immunology
  • Barbara Bendlin
    Associate Professor of Medicine
  • Christopher Coe
    Professor of Psychology
  • James Gern
    Professor of Pediatrics
  • Pamela Herd
    Professor of Public Affairs and Sociology
  • Bruce Klein
    Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology
  • Janet Lainhart
    Professor of Psychiatry
  • Lingjun Li
    Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chemistry
  • Vatsan Raman
    Assistant Professor of Biochemistry
  • Federico Rey
    Assistant Professor of Bacteriology
  • Garret Suen
    Associate Professor of Bacteriology
  • Brittany Travers
    Assistant Professor of Kinesiology