Significant effort has been put forth to increase understanding regarding the role of the human microbiome in health- and disease-related processes. In turn, the United States (US) Veteran Microbiome Project (US-VMP) was conceptualized as a means by which to serially collect microbiome and health-related data from those seeking care within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). In this manuscript, exposures related to military experiences, as well as conditions and health-related factors among patients seen in VHA clinical settings are discussed in relation to common psychological and physical outcomes. Upon enrollment in the study, Veterans complete psychometrically sound (i.e., reliable and valid) measures regarding their past and current medical history. Participants also provide skin, oral, and gut microbiome samples, and permission to track their health status via the VHA electronic medical record. To date, data collection efforts have been cross-diagnostic. Within this manuscript, we describe current data collection practices and procedures, as well as highlight demographic, military, and psychiatric characteristics of the first 188 Veterans enrolled in the study. Based on these findings, we assert that this cohort is unique as compared to those enrolled in recent large-scale studies of the microbiome. To increase understanding regarding disease and health among diverse cohorts, efforts such as the US-VMP are vital. Ongoing barriers and facilitators to data collection are discussed, as well as future research directions, with an emphasis on the importance of shifting current thinking regarding the microbiome from a focus on normalcy and dysbiosis to health promotion and disease prevention.
Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
Brenner, L. A., Hoisington, A. J., Stearns-Yoder, K. A., Stamper, C. E., Heinze, J. D., Postolache, T. T., … Lowry, C. A. (2018). Military-Related Exposures, Social Determinants of Health, and Dysbiosis: The United States-Veteran Microbiome Project (US-VMP). Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2018.00400