In a November 18, 2018, opinion piece in the New York Times entitled “Save the Germs,” documentary filmmaker Sarah Schenck argues the case for the establishment of a “microbial vault” to preserve, for future use in combating disease, samples of microbes currently inhabiting humans.
The microbial biobank proposal that Ms. Shenck supports was made in an October 2018 article in Science magazine, authored by renowned microbiome expert Dr. Martin Blaser and others, which calls for the preservation of stool and other biological samples, especially from peoples living in remote, less industrialized areas, “before modernity kills off these microbes.”
The proposal reflects growing scientific evidence that the human microbiome plays a crucial role in health, and that the absence of specific microbes—an absence increasingly associated with modern medical or lifestyle interventions such as C-section deliveries, the overuse of antibiotics, formula feeding of infants, and the excessive promotion of cleanliness—increases susceptibility to various diseases.
“As Ms. Schenck’s references attest, the CHILD Study is a valuable international resource and repository for microbiome data that has already provided incredible and novel insights into the role of microbes in health and disease,” comments CHILD Study Director Dr. Padmaja Subbarao.
Ms. Schenck is co-director of the documentary film Missing Microbes, focusing on the mission of Dr. Blaser and Dr. Gloria Dominguez-Bello “to protect and restore our missing microbes before it’s too late.”