The Ohio State University: College of Arts and Sciences

focus: Humans

Human Microbiome Research in the Sullivan Lab

The term ‘microbiome’ is now nearly common parlance in popular literature as it has become clear that we (humans) live in partnership with more microbial cells than human cells, and that these microbes play fundamental roles in our bodies from driving our cravings, affecting our behavior, and helping us (in)efficiently digest our food. However, just as in the oceans, it is likely that the human microbiome is drastically impacted by viruses that infect these microbes that also have lifestyles tuned towards altering the human-microbiome ecosystem. Thus it becomes important to not only study pathogens in humans – which is where most medical microbiology has long focused – but also to assess the ecology of our commensal microbes and their viruses. Many labs study the microbes, very few study the viruses of these microbes. Our lab has ported our ‘oceans viral ecogenomics toolkit’ towards the study of viruses in humans, with initial studies focused on how microbiome transplant treatments impact autistic children and how smoking alters the human microbiome and virome.

Key research Qs are largely very basic and exploratory at this stage as virtually nothing is known.

Our current work, heavily collaborative, explores viruses of microbes in the lung and spinal cord injury with OSU collaborators, phage therapy in burn wounds with OSU and KU Leuven collaborators, and novel genomic sequencing technologies with OSU researchers. This work is largely in pilot-stage funding, with the latter work now NIH funded.

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Recent publications in human research
Lab Members involved in human research

Human Research Feature

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Recent Human Publications

  • Kigeri, K.A., Zane, K., Adams, K., Sullivan, M.B., & Popovich, P.G. 2019. The spinal cord-gut-immune axis as a master regulator of health and neurological function after spinal cord injury. Experimental Neurology. 323C:113085. LINK PDF
  • Howard-Varona, C., Vik, D., Solonenko, N., Gazitua, C., Hobbs, Z., Honaker, R., Kinkhabwala, A. & Sullivan, M.B. 2018. Whole-Genome Sequences of Phages p000v and p000y, Which Infect the Bacterial Pathogen Shiga-Toxigenic Escherichia coli. Microbiology Resource Announcements. e01400-18.  LINK  PDF
  • Howard-Varona, C., Vik, D., Solonenko, N., Li, Y., Gazitua, C., Chittick, L., Samiec, J., Jensen, A., Anderson, P., Howard-Varona, A., Kinkhabwala, A., Abedon, S. & Sullivan, M.B. 2018. Fighting Fire with Fire: Phage Potential for the Treatment of E. coli O157 Infection. Antibiotics.  7: e101.  LINK PDF
  • Gregory, A.C.Sullivan, M.B., Segal, L.N. & Keller, B.C. 2018. Smoking is associated with quantifiable differences in the human lung DNA virome and metabolome. Respiratory Research. 19:e174.  LINK  PDF

Human Researchers