Deciphering the role microbiomes may play in human health and disease

Illustration of a broken puzzle with pieces of microbes and body
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Piece by piece, scientists are trying to solve the puzzle of the ancient but evolutionary relationship between humans and their microbiomes, or the genetic world stemming from bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microbes inside or on the human body.

What's new: In the second part of a more than decade-long project to decode the genetic influence from these mysteriously important "bugs," the Integrative Human Microbiome Project (iHMP) published 3 studies Wednesday in Nature and Nature Medicine that look at how changes in the microbiome could be related to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), prediabetes and preterm births.

Deadly frog fungus epidemic may have originated in East Asia

A captive Oriental fire-bellied toad (or Bombina orientalis) imported into Europe from South Korea
An Oriental fire-bellied toad (Bombina orientalis) imported into Europe from South Korea. Photo: Frank Pasmans/Ghent University

Scientists may have finally traced the origin of a deadly fungus that is decimating the global amphibian population. In a study published in Science Thursday, researchers report the fungus originated in East Asia, possibly Korea.

Why it matters: The researchers say this provides strong evidence there should be a ban on trade in amphibians from East Asia before irrevocable damage is done to global amphibian biodiversity.