Everybody and everything is surrounded by microbiomes and understanding what microbiomes do, what they are, and how they interact is a new scientific frontier made now reachable by rapid advances in genomic mapping, robotics, and chemical analysis. What we know and understand so far is that the microbiome has essential impacts on our health and on the food we produce, on plants and animals and on
ecosystems in general. Unravelling their complexity offers huge potential for innovation and will be a major game changer in the way we manage our planet's resources to obtain our food and improve our health. Our own human microbiome is made up of communities of symbiotic, commensal and pathogenic bacteria as well as fungi and viruses. Our own body microbiome accounts for 100 times more genes, and over 1 000 species live in our gut only. Human-hosted microbiome communities are found everywhere in our body — from our eyes, mouth and lungs to our skin, genitals and intestines. Some of these microorganisms have no effect on their hosts, while others like symbiotic bacteria offer a mutually beneficial relationship such as by breaking down food. Pathogens in the form of a disease-causing opportunistic microorganism are also found but in smaller numbers.
Currently there is a lack of understanding about the importance of the human gut microbiome, although it is known to affect the body’s ability to extract energy from food and influence brain function. Greater insights into the gut microbiome would therefore contribute to the development of dietary interventions and other new ways to treat both chronic and acute illnesses. But the microbiome is not just a feature of the human body, it is also found within livestock, plants, soil and the oceans. All of these interact in complex ways, which science has only just begun to comprehend. Hence, the microbiome represents a vast new area of research that offers the potential for nothing less than a food and nutrition revolution. Through the FP7 and Horizon 2020 framework programmes the EU has seized upon this unique opportunity to support ambitious cutting-edge research projects, allowing it to become a truly global leader in the study of microbiomes.