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Call for Microbial Archive

Researchers want to stockpile the microbiomes of individuals living in remote communities who harbor diverse microbes, NPR reports.

Rutgers University's Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello tells it that the components of the microbiome help the immune system learn which microbes are beneficial and which are threats and thus help keep people healthy. But, NPR notes, people's microbiomes have become less diverse with industrialization, as diets, antibiotic use, and city living have become more common.

In an opinion piece at Science, Dominguez-Bello and her colleagues call for the collection and preservation of ancestral microbes from diverse global populations, particularly from less industrialized regions. By studying these samples, they say insights into how microbial diversity loss has contributed to metabolic, immune, and cognitive disease could be untangled. In addition, they argue that some of these samples should be archived before they are lost, just like the Seed Bank of Svalbard Island, Norway.

"The collection should be really isolated, in the coldest possible and the most autonomous [place] possible, so if a major disaster happens, the collection can survive," Dominguez-Bello tells NPR. "We want a cold place in a stable country — it's very important that the country is politically neutral and stable."