Background: Human microbiome research has the potential to transform the practice of medicine, fundamentally shifting the ways in which we think not only about human health, illness and disease, but also about clinical practice and public health interventions. Drawing from a larger qualitative study on ethical, legal and social dimensions of human microbiome research, in this article, we document perspectives related to the translation of human microbiome research into clinical practice, focusing particularly on implications for health, illness and disease.
Methods: We conducted 60 in-depth, semi-structured interviews (2009-2010) with 63 researchers and National Institutes of Health project leaders ('investigators') involved with human microbiome research. The interviews explored a range of ethical, legal and social implications of human microbiome research, including investigators' perspectives on potential strategies for translating findings to clinical practice. Using thematic content analysis, we identified and analyzed emergent themes and patterns.
Results: We identified 3 themes: (1) investigators' general perspectives on the clinical utility of human microbiome research, (2) investigators' perspectives on antibiotic use, overuse and misuse, and (3) investigators' perspectives concerning future challenges of translating data to clinical practice.
Conclusion: The issues discussed by investigators concerning the clinical significance of human microbiome research, including embracing a new paradigm of health and disease, the importance of microbial communities, and clinical utility, will be of critical importance as this research moves forward.
Copyright © 2013 S. Karger AG, Basel.