// 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
Our perception of
bacteria has changed.
For more information on research underway at Rady Children’s, please call 858-966-5910, firstname.lastname@example.org
or visitrchsd.org/research .