Ami Bhatt, MD, PhD, has a gut feeling about many medical maladies. That is, she believes that we can fight some diseases by learning more about the trillions of microbes living in our guts and on our bodies.
“Humans are not only made up of human cells, but are a complex mixture of human cells and the microbes that live within us and among us — and these microorganisms are as critical to our well-being as we are to theirs,” says Bhatt, who is an assistant professor of medicine and of genetics.
Bhatt, along with collaborators at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and the INDEPTH Network, now intends to examine the relationship between microbiomes and health in Africa.
She is this year’s winner of the Rosenkranz Prize for Health Care Research in Developing Countries, a $100,000 award given by Stanford Health Policy to young Stanford researchers who are investigating ways to improve health care in developing countries. She's pictured above with Ricky Rosenkranz, a Stanford graduate whose father endowed the award.
In a piece for Stanford Health Policy, I describe how Bhatt is planning the first multi-country microbiome research project focused on non-communicable disease risk in Africa. The project intends to explore the relationship between the gut microbiome composition and body mass index (BMI) in patients who are either severely malnourished or obese.
Bhatt noted that as Africa rapidly continues to develop, the continent is simultaneously faced with challenges relating to extreme weight gain and loss. While the wealthy may battle obesity and its associated diseases such as stroke, heart failure and diabetes, many others grapple with issues related to food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition.
The research, she hopes, could lead to aggressive behavioral, dietary and lifestyle modifications targeted at maintaining healthy BMI in at-risk individuals.
Previously:Rosenkranz Prize winners devoted to innovative health care in developing countries, Stanford physician Sanjay Basu on using data to prevent chronic disease in the developing world and Stanford researchers aims to develop database built on DNA of Latin American descendants
Photo by Nicole Feldman