Bill Gates Tackles the Microbiome

Guest BloggerFrom The Gut

The founder of Microsoft knows a thing or two about computers. And while showering his billions on fighting malaria and tuberculosis in the developing world, Bill Gates learned about pathogens.

Now in a philanthropic pivot, he has turned his largess onto the good microbes.

The Gates Foundation is contributing an astounding $100 million to the White House’s Microbiome Initiative.

In a recent blog on his website, Gates recalls how his fascination evolved after reading Ed Yong’s book I Contain Multitudes.

“As you can imagine, the book is also quite relevant to my work at our foundation, especially in the area of children’s growth and development. Yong explains why, if we want to prevent malnutrition, we not only need to help alleviate hunger and provide key micronutrients. We will also need to learn why some kids’ microbiomes are out of balance and how to restore them back to a healthy state. “

Gates discusses how probiotics have imbued his parenting. Hand sanitizers, antibacterial soaps and antibiotics have dramatically reduced children’s exposure to helpful microbes, he wrote. He is hopeful that microbiome manipulation in the future will target diseases of all stripes.

A novel manipulation is in the works, thanks to Gates Foundation support. Mosquitos are infected with a common bacterium called Wolbachia; the insect is then unable to spread a disease called dengue fever. Results have been stunning. A trial in Australia virtually wiped out dengue fever in the area. Read Gate’s report on work done in this vein in Indonesia. Malaria and Zika are also potential targets.

“We have been tilting at microbes for too long, and created a world that is hostile to the ones we need.” — Ed Yong