Gut Health in the era of the Human Gut Microbiota: from metaphor to biovalue
The human intestinal ecosystem, previously called the gut microflora is now known as the Human Gut Microbiota (HGM). Microbiome research has emphasized the potential role of this ecosystem in human homeostasis, offering unexpected opportunities in therapeutics, far beyond digestive diseases. It has also highlighted ethical, social and commercial concerns related to the gut microbiota. As diet factors are accepted to be the major regulator of the gut microbiota, the modulation of its composition, either by antibiotics or by food intake, should be regarded as a fascinating tool for improving the human health. Scientists, the food industry, consumers and policymakers alike are involved in this new field of nutrition. Defining how knowledge about the HGM is being translated into public perception has never been addressed before. This raises the question of metaphors associated with the HGM, and how they could be used to improve public understanding, and to influence individual decision-making on healthcare policy. This article suggests that a meeting of stakeholders from the social sciences, basic research and the food industry, taking an epistemological approach to the HGM, is needed to foster close, innovative partnerships that will help shape public perception and enable novel behavioural interventions that would benefit public health.
KeywordsHuman Gut Microbiota Metaphors Biovalue Gut Health Nutrition Antibiotics Bacterial resistance
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