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This year the winners of the MOBIO MICROBIOME AWARD were announced on September 15, 2016.

  1. The first prize was for Catherine Burke for her work in the characterization of the microbiome of human depression.
  2. The second prize was for Allyson Martinez for the studies about the bee honey stomach microbiome and its influence in the honey composition.
  3. The third prize was for Andrea Tarnecki and her investigations about the effect that oil/dispersant exposure produces in fishes.

A summary of the awarded projects from

Catherine Burke, PhD
University of Technology, Sydney

Dr. Burks's study aims to characterize the gut microbiome in a clinically depressed population in comparison to healthy controls, and will be run in conjunction with a larger clinical trial examining the efficacy of probiotics for the treatment of depression in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy. This will increase the current knowledge of the microbiome associated with depression, and importantly provide insight into the potential of microbiome manipulation as a novel treatment for depression, as a link has been established between the gut microbiome and animal models of depression, but only two studies in the past have attempted to characterize the microbiome in clinically depressed human populations.  

Allyson Martinez, PhD
Texas A&M University, Central Texas 

The goal Dr. Martinez's study is to test whether the bee honey stomach microbiome plays a role in the composition of  honey. The honey stomach is a specialized gastrointestinal structure that only functions to convert nectar into honey, and the microbiome of the honey stomach may play a specialized role in the production of honey. Honey and bees will be collected to determine the chemical composition of the honey and characterize the honey stomach microbiome. This data will be compared to known metagenomic and metatranscriptomic data for the microorganisms identified in the microbiome. These results will allow us to determine the specific contribution of individual microorganisms of the honey stomach microbiome to the production of honey.

AndreaTarnecki, PhD
Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida 

Dr. Tarnecki proposes a study which will investigate the effects of oil (PAHs) and a commonly used dispersant on fish immune function and microbiome composition. The investigation will take advantage of funded ecotoxicological tests that will compare fishes during oil/dispersant exposure through feed, water, and sediments to unexposed controls. A suite of immunological parameters will be quantified in that work and will provide linkage data between microbiome structure and fish physiological condition. The value added by exploring microbiome reactions to fish stressors in parallel with this work is significant. This study will provide insight into the effects of pollutants on the host microbiomes and how these changes relate to host health. Members of the bacterial community that are altered during pollutant exposure that correlate with immunosuppression will be identified as potential biomarkers for fish health. Identifying these bacterial biomarkers is the first step in producing a minimally invasive, non-lethal monitoring procedure to quickly assess fish health in the field and in aquaculture during stressor events.

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Raquel Tobes