and their relationships with other communities and organisms, including their multicellular hosts.

Statement of Task5

On March 6 and 7, 2012, the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) Forum on Microbial Threats hosted a public workshop to explore the emerging science of the “social biology” of microbial communities. Workshop presentations and discussions embraced a wide spectrum of topics, experimental systems, and theoretical perspectives representative of the current, multifaceted exploration of the microbial frontier. Participants discussed ecological, evolutionary, and genetic factors contributing to the assembly, function, and stability of microbial communities; how microbial communities adapt and respond to environmental stimuli; theoretical and experimental approaches to advance this nascent field; and potential applications of knowledge gained from the study of microbial communities for the improvement of human, animal, plant, and ecosystem health and toward a deeper understanding of microbial diversity and evolution.

Organization of the Workshop Summary

This workshop summary was prepared by the rapporteurs for the Forum’s members and includes a collection of individually authored papers and commentary. Sections of the workshop summary not specifically attributed to an individual reflect the views of the rapporteurs and not those of the members of the Forum on Microbial Threats, its sponsors, or the IOM. The contents of the unattributed sections of this summary report provide a context for the reader to appreciate the presentations and discussions that occurred over the 2 days of this workshop.

The summary is organized into sections as a topic-by-topic description of the presentations and discussions that took place at the workshop. Its purpose is

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5 The original Statement of Task stated the following: An ad hoc committee will plan and conduct a public workshop that will feature invited presentations and discussions to explore the scientific and policy implications of the microbiome in health and disease. Topics to be discussed may include, but are not limited to, the social behavior of microorganisms to form and maintain stable communities; how the use of antibiotics and other drugs can influence the community composition of the microbiome; microbial evolution and co-adaptation; an exploration of the various microbiomes in mammalian/terrestrial/aquatic environments; and the impacts of globalization on the introduction, establishment and evolution of “novel” diseases in established microbial communities. In the course of planning this workshop, the planning committee decided to focus the workshop’s agenda on “the ecological, evolutionary, and genetic factors contributing to the assembly, function, and stability of microbial communities; how microbial communities adapt and respond to environmental stimuli; theoretical and experimental approaches to advance this nascent field; and potential applications of knowledge gained from the study of microbial communities for the improvement of human, animal, plant, and ecosystem health and toward a deeper understanding of microbial diversity and evolution.”



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