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Abstract

The human microbiome represents a new frontier in understanding the biology of human health. While epidemiology in this area is still in its infancy, its scope will likely expand dramatically over the coming years. To rise to the challenge, we argue that epidemiology should capitalize on its population perspective as a critical complement to molecular microbiome research, allowing for the illumination of contextual mechanisms that may vary more across populations rather than among individuals. We first briefly review current research on social context and the gut microbiome, focusing specifically on socioeconomic status (SES) and race/ethnicity. Next, we reflect on the current state of microbiome epidemiology through the lens of one specific area, the association of the gut microbiome and metabolic disorders. We identify key methodological shortcomings of current epidemiological research in this area, including extensive selection bias, the use of noncompositionally robust measures, and a lack of attention to social factors as confounders or effect modifiers.

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2020-04-01
2024-04-20
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