CE: Health and the Human Microbiome
The profound impact of the human microbiome on health makes it imperative that nurses understand the basic structures and functions of the various microbial communities. In studying the human microbiome, advances in DNA and RNA sequencing technology offer benefits over traditional culture-based methods. Such technology has permitted more thorough investigations of microbial communities, particularly those of the gastrointestinal (GI) and female reproductive tracts. Although individual variations exist, each site exhibits distinct compositions. The diverse GI microbiota aid in digestion, mood regulation, and vitamin synthesis. While many factors affect the composition and functions of the GI microbiota, diet likely exerts the strongest influence. Vaginal microbiota tend to be less diverse, and mainly serve to protect women from infection. The composition of the vaginal microbiota is influenced by sexual activity, hygienic practices, medications, smoking, and other factors. Our increasing knowledge about the structures and functions of the GI and vaginal microbiota allows nurses to provide targeted, evidence-based education and care for various populations.