The next frontier in microbiome research

Diseases intrinsic to the pancreas such as pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and type 1 diabetes mellitus impart substantial health and financial burdens on society but identification of novel mechanisms contributing to these pathologies are slow to emerge. A novel area of research suggests that pancreatic-specific disorders might be modulated by the gut microbiota, either through a local (direct pancreatic influence) or in a remote (nonpancreatic) fashion.

 In this Perspectives, we examine literature implicating microorganisms in diseases of the pancreas, specifically pancreatitis, type 1 diabetes mellitus and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. We also discuss evidence of an inherent pancreatic microbiota and the influence of the intestinal microbiota as it relates to disease association and development. 

In doing so, we address pitfalls in the current literature and areas of investigation that are needed to advance a developing field of research that has clinical potential to reduce the societal burden of pancreatic diseases. 

In conclusion, a new front in microbiota host response research has opened with the evidence for a bacterial role in pancreatic diseases. Although mechanistic understanding of this relationship is still limited, it is clear that this field of research is moving forwards and that novel therapeutic interventions based on bacteria-related function could be generated in the near future.

Read more: Nature