Author: Dean Jasser
Academy of Allied Health and Science, Neptune, New Jersey, United States of America
Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution across the world, there has been an unprecedented increase in the production of manufactured goods, many of which have been revealed to be harmful to the environment, including the accumulation of microplastics and increased consumption of processed foods. Recently shown to contribute to human disease, the rate of plastic production has quadrupled over the past thirty years . Consumption of processed foods has also increased significantly, with ultra-processed foods making up around 57 percent of an American individual’s diet in 2018 , leading to adverse effects on human health. Despite the investigation into the effects on the environment and nutritional health these products have, how these products affect the human microbiome is not well understood. Here, we aim to compile previously published human microbiome data from various parts of the world to review and compare the composition and levels of microbes with the specific environmental contaminants listed previously, as well as propose possible solutions and efforts to reduce the negative consequences of these products. Finally, we tested in vitro how microplastics affect bacterial growth and initially found no evidence of growth defects when microplastics levels were low and some evidence of growth inhibition when microplastics levels were high. Yet, we hypothesize that the environmental changes that we explore here affect human gut microbiome composition and levels of specific microbes, and that microplastic consumed over time and/or in high amounts may negatively affect the health of the human microbiome. To better treat disease induced by bacterial imbalances or infections, it is important to understand how human-induced environmental changes affect the human microbiome and therefore ultimately human health long-term.