Dr. Andrew Roger
Parasites, the gut and your health:
Dr. Andrew Roger examines impact of parasites on human microbiome and health
People are increasingly aware that bacteria and other microbes in our guts play a critical role in our health—but scientists and clinicians are just scratching the surface of the great depths of knowledge to be learned about these organisms and their effect upon us.
“There are literally thousands of species of microbes in the human microbiome, representing hundreds of millions of DNA sequences to analyze,” says Dr. Andrew Roger, a professor in Dalhousie Medical School’s Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. “Then we trace it backwards from the genes to identify what species are present and in what proportions.”
Dr. Roger and his colleagues can begin to connect the dots between the composition of the microbiome and human health by adding the hosts’ health information into the analysis.
“We want to know what species, in what ratios, are associated with disease,” he explains.
Of great interest to Dr. Roger is a ubiquitous parasite known as Blastocystis, which is benign in most people but in some cases causes diarrhea and even more severe symptoms”
“Blastocystis is not well studied,” notes Dr. Roger. “We want to know how it affects the immune system and other organisms in the gut, how antibiotics affect this balance, and how the host’s immune system, general health and microbiome composition affect susceptibility to problems with this parasite.”
Dr. Roger and his team are eager to welcome new trainees to their lab through the new Genome Informatics Training Program, to be funded in part through Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation’s 2018-19 Molly Appeal.
“Dalhousie researchers are world leaders in developing computerized methods of analyzing the almost unfathomable amounts of genetic data being gathered,” he says. “We’re looking forward to training more scientists with the combined expertise in biology and informatics to crunch the data we’re collecting about the genetics of the thousands of species living in our guts.”