Consensus Report

Environmental Chemicals, the Human Microbiome, and Health Risk: A Research Strategy (2017)

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

The human microbiome is composed of a great number of diverse microorganisms that inhabit the human body. Until recently, the role of the microbiome in maintaining human health was not fully appreciated. Today, however, scientists are beginning to explain the important roles that it might play in a wide array of diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease. Recent studies have indicated that the human microbiome can metabolize environmental chemicals and might be affected by chemical exposure. Given those findings, some have argued that chemical-microbiome interactions should be considered in assessing health risk associated with environmental-chemical exposure. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have released a new report that proposes a research strategy to advance understanding of the interactions between environmental chemicals and the human microbiome and the implications of those interactions on human health risk. The report also highlights key aspects of the human microbiome and its relation to health, describes potential interactions between environmental chemicals and the human microbiome, reviews the risk-assessment framework and reasons for incorporating the proposed research, describes methods for studying the microbiome, and identifies barriers for research and opportunities for collaboration.