Environmental and internal microbiome


Session coordinators: Lucette Flandroy & Ellen Decaestecker



Session report available here.



When thinking about biodiversity, one often thinks of a variety of animals and plants, whereas the planet is also full of microbial diversity. A big part of this microscopic world contributes to equilibrium and cycles of the ecosystems, and a small proportion of them have already been used by man for their pharmaceutical and other industrial purposes. Not only the planet but also our bodies are complex ecosystems, containing ~ ten times more microorganisms than human cells, on our skins, gut, airways, urogenital tracts. We start to understand that, next to some pathogenic strains for man and other animals, many of these microorganisms, from various phyla and originating from the external world, have co-evolved with man since the pre-historical times and have useful if not crucial roles for our physical and mental health. They participate in regulatory functions inside our body ecosystem, but also can be intermediary insuring a constant dialogue between our slowly adaptative complex bodies and the external world in evolution where these microbes can adapt by rapid gene innovation.


Modern sanitary norms and products and reduced contact of people with the natural environment in cities implies reduced diversity in human microbiota that starts to be linked with various chronic diseases (link with session on Nature benefits for health). A better understanding of the specific roles of various environmental microbes, of their interactions with each other and with our bodies, should help avoiding or curing chronic physical and mental diseases associated with urban life in developed countries but also in fast growing cities of developing countries.  


In this session, we will review current knowledge on this issue, and suggest, on that basis, recommendations to move forward in science, policy and practice.


Session coordinators: Lucette Flandroy & Ellen Decaestecker

Introductory speakers: 

Eeva Furman, Lasse Ruokolainen and Tari Haahtela ( Professor emeritus, Skin & Allergy Hospital, Helsinki University Hospital; board member of the World Allergy Organization ) : the legacy of I.Hanski, the “biodiversity hypothesis” (impact of the microbiome on the immune system  and inflammatory processes) and exemplary Finnish plans on the Microbiome.  

Xavier Stephenne  (Professor in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Clinique St-Luc, UCLouvain, Belgium):  fecal material transplantation (in case of antibiotic resistance): scientific, practical, legal aspects.