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Dr. Harmsen exemplifies the importance of medical microbiology by describing the mechanics and vital nature of gut microbiome diversity.

When you listen, you’ll learn

  • how aerobic and anaerobic gut bacteria have different functions and effects, 
  • how anaerobic bacteria presence translates to the upkeep of anti-inflammatory compounds, and
  • what eating habits we can maintain to feed those important anaerobic bacteria.

Dr. H.J.M. Harmsen is an associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands.  In this discussion he tells listeners about gut bacteria, microbes, and bacteria ecology.

He begins by explaining exactly what diversity means in terms of the gut microbiome and correlating health. He articulates the need for a balance of bacteria species, and more specifically, short chain fatty acid-making anaerobic bacteria like faecalibacterium. In fact, a proliferation of aerobic bacteria can bode bad news for bodily health and lead to an increase in pathogens.

These short chain fatty acids like acetate, propionate, and butyrate have important functions in our body such as energy sources and anti-inflammatory effects. They help maintain the important gut mucin, which is a type of mucus our gut needs to function.

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He then explains that these anaerobic gut bacteria, which exist further down in our colon, feed off of fresher foods that are harder to digest and therefore able to make it that far into the digestive process. This includes fresh fruits and vegetables that provide fibers, pectin, and cellulose, foods our gut microbiome depends on for sustenance.

Dr. Harmsen is exhibiting the importance of medical microbiology by using these digestive mechanics to better understand Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, which has an inflammatory component.

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When patients have low butyrate, one of these short chain fatty acids, doctors see leaky gut syndrome for example, when the gut barrier is not functioning properly.

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He explains how this research may also help cancer patients as they understand how to remove and retransplant a patient’s gut micobiome post chemotherapy.

For more, see Dr. H.J.M. Harmsen’s faculty page at
and search for his publications at PubMed and other research publication listings by his name: H.J.M. Harmsen .


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