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UK Microbiology Society Microbiome Safety Workshop


The science underpinning the safety assessment of microbiome perturbations induced by chemicals, prebiotics and probiotics was recently discussed at a UK Microbiology Society workshop organised in partnership with Unilever.

The opening of the workshop held at the Microbiology Society headquarters co-chaired by Prof. Lindsay Hall and Dr Aline Metris

With the advancement of sequencing technologies, there has been an increase in research on the human microbiome describing the microorganisms present in our gut, on our skin or in our mouth. Innovations with products which aim to change the microbiome are on the increase. It is important to ensure that they are safe for consumers.

Earlier this year, the UK Microbiology Society brought together 34 scientists representing 31 institutions for two days in London (24th-25th January) to discuss microbiome safety at a workshop organised in partnership with Unilever. The workshop was co-chaired by Prof. Lindsay Hall (University of Birmingham) and Dr. Aline Metris (Unilever).

Our human microbiomes

Workshop participants discussed our oral, skin and gut microbiomes, which are generally resilient to perturbations as we brush our teeth, apply personal care products or eat.

Delegates included experts in specialist subjects such as AI and industries ranging from suppliers of probiotics to pharmaceuticals regulation and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods companies. Advanced modelling techniques could help interpret sequencing data to understand microbiome functions in health and disease and thus help in the consumer safety assessment of new products. These techniques could be complemented with new in vitro cell culture methods which are developing fast, but there is a need to evaluate and document interactions with the host and their health state.

The opening of the workshop held at the Microbiology Society headquarters co-chaired by Prof. Lindsay Hall and Dr Aline Metris

A wide range of expertise

"The workshop served as an excellent platform for exploring the intricacies of microbiome perturbations, particularly within the oral, gut, and skin host sites. The diverse array of speakers and delegates, representing various disciplines and industries, created an ideal environment for addressing pressing questions and exploring new opportunities. Big thanks goes to the Microbiology Society for hosting the workshop and bringing together so many engaged experts

commented Prof. Lindsay Hall, chair of Microbiome Research at the University of Birmingham

It was a fantastic opportunity to exchange scientific knowledge and reach out to a wider community of expertise

added Dr. Aline Metris, SEAC Safety Science Leader at Unilever

Conclusions and future

So far, for general populations, there is little or no evidence of adverse effects and health implications of microbiome perturbations induced by products, but harmonisation and standardisation of approaches as well as long-term monitoring would benefit the robustness of future safety assessments.

The presentations from the workshop are available online and the findings will be published soon. “The Microbiology Society takes pride in the confidence that Unilever has placed in us to act as a neutral broker to convene the very best experts spanning academia, industry and government. We very much look forward to future collaborations” concluded Dr. Curtis Asante, Associate Director of the Microbiology Society.

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