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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Embracing microbes in exposure science.

  • Author(s): Nazaroff, William W
  • et al.

Although defined more broadly, exposure science has mainly focused on exposures to environmental chemicals and related stressors, such as airborne particulate matter. There is an opportunity for exposure science to contribute more substantially to improving public health by devoting more attention to microorganisms as key stressors and agents in exposure. The discovery that pathogenic microbes cause disease in humans precipitated a revolution in public health science and disease prevention. With a continued global urgency to address spread of pathogenic microbes, contributions of microorganisms to both infectious and noninfectious processes merit more attention from the exposure science community. Today, discoveries of the importance of the human microbiome as a determinant of health and disease are precipitating a second revolution. Emerging knowledge creates a major opportunity to expand the scope of exposure science to incorporate the human microbiome as a target and modulator of exposure. A study committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has defined a research strategy to address health risks that pertain to the interaction of environmental chemicals with the human microbiome. Some aspects of this strategy pose important challenges and opportunities for the exposure science community.

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