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Winter 2018

// Healthy Kids Magazine



For most of history, we had no clue they

existed. After they were linked to disease, we

demonized them—bacteria are bad, all bacteria,

under all circumstances.

Now we have a more nuanced understand-

ing. Yes, some microbes are bad for us, under

certain circumstances, but the vast majority

perform useful functions, even protecting us

from dangerous pathogens.

Rob Knight, PhD, directs the Center for

Microbiome Innovation at UC San Diego and

has spent years illuminating the microbial

world, determining how certain microbial com-

munities can support good (or bad) health.

“Understanding how the microbiome [all

our microbes’ genes] develops could be just

as important as the height and weight growth

charts that every parent is familiar with,”

Knight says. “Understanding, for individual

children, whether their microbiomes are on

track or are getting off-kilter due to diet, antibi-

otics or other factors could be really important

for preventing disease before it happens,

improving resistance to infections and deciding

when vaccines will be most effective.”

Knight is a workhorse—at 40 he’s already

published 500 papers—and he’s gradually

uncovering how people and microbes interact:

tracking the microbiome to predict infections,

studying how human milk affects infant growth

and finding ways to get cesarian-born babies

the right microbes. That’s just a tiny sample.

“Individualized microbiome profiles may

help us understand what nutrition each child

needs and how they will respond to medica-

tions,” Knight says. “For critically ill children,

this could mean the difference between life

and death.”

Our perception of

bacteria has changed.


For more information on research underway at Rady Children’s, please call 858-966-5910, email

or visit .