The human body is inhabited by as many, if not more, microorganisms (i.e. bacteria, archaea, eukaryotes, and viruses) than human cells. Understanding the relationship between the human body and the microorganisms that inhabit it may provide new and exciting insights into human physiology and disease. Dysbiosis, i.e. changes to the diversity, function, or total population of microbiota, has been reported in autoimmune diseases including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disease. It is hypothesized that dysbiosis disrupts the symbiotic relationships between the microbiota and the host immune system, resulting in a loss of self-tolerance. Until recently, investigations into these relationships were restricted by the limited discovery capabilities of 16S gene sequencing technologies.
Our research team is using high-throughput next-generation sequencing technologies to develop higher resolution discovery-based approaches to explore the functional significance of dysbiosis in SLE participants relative to healthy controls. We have collected and banked stool, saliva, and skin samples from SLE patients and healthy controls through our partnership with OMRF lupus clinics. For more details of our ongoing efforts, see https://gaffney.omrf.org/discoveries/exploring-the-gut-microbiome-in-sle-patients/.