Microbiome analysis for human and planetary health
Environmental sequencing, that is metagenomics, has become a major driver for uncovering microbial biodiversity and increasingly also for molecular functionality on our planet. Based on computational methods and resources, often developed in our group, here I (i) introduce into our work on the gut microbiome, arguable the best-studied microbial community, serving as a model for other habitats. Metagenome-wide association studies enable bioinformatics-driven hypothesis generation, with focus here on diagnostics. I (ii) further show how to apply the underlying concepts to other habitats, like ocean and soil, to arrive at a basic understanding of microbial life in context on earth. For this, we have developed a planetary-scale microbial resource that we are starting to mine, e.g. for gene evolution at global sale or fluxes of molecular functions across habitats. We complement analysis of public data with an ambitious, integrative, continental-scale international expedition that traverses European coastlines (TREC). Analysis of environmental microbiomes and contextual data can also informs on critical aspects of human health, such as antibiotics resistance spread. In analogy to microbial diagnostics and treatment for human health, we foresee microbiome-informed bioindicator and remediation strategies towards improving planetary health.