From 27–29 October 2014, more than 100 people gathered in Chicago, IL, to participate in a research symposium titled “Diabetes and the Microbiome,” jointly sponsored by the American Diabetes Association and JDRF. The conference brought together international scholars and trainees from multiple disciplines, including microbiology, bioinformatics, endocrinology, metabolism, and immunology, to share the current understanding of host-microbe interactions and their influences on diabetes and metabolism. Notably, this gathering was the first to assemble specialists with distinct expertise in type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, immunology, and microbiology with the goal of discussing and defining potential pathophysiologies linking the microbiome and diabetes. In addition to reviewing existing evidence in the field, speakers presented their own original research to provide a comprehensive view of the current understanding of the topics under discussion.
Presentations and discussions throughout the conference reflected a number of important concepts. The microbiota in any host represent a complex ecosystem with a high degree of interindividual variability. Different microbial communities, comprising bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi, occupy separate niches in and on the human body. Individually and collectively, these microbes provide benefits to the host—including nutrient harvest from food and protection against pathogens. They are dynamically regulated by both host genes and the environment, and they critically influence both physiology and lifelong health. The objective of the symposium was to discuss the relationship between the host and the microbiome—the combination of microbiota and their biomolecular environment and ecology—specifically with regard to metabolic and immunological systems and to define the critical research needed to understand and potentially target the microbiome in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. In this report, we present meeting highlights in the following areas: 1) relationships between diabetes and the microbiome, 2) bioinformatic tools, resources, and study design considerations, 3) microbial programming of the immune system, 4) the microbiome and energy balance, 5) interventions, and 6) limitations, unanswered questions, and resource and policy needs.