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Michael Surette

Michael Surette

Interdisciplinary Microbiome Research
Canada Research Chair

Faculty of Health Sciences

Department of Medicine


Research Involves

Using culture-enriched molecular profiling and state-of-the-art genome sequencing to study the human microbiome and its role in human development and health.

Chair Overview

The human body is host to numerous complex microbial communities that comprise the human microbiome. These microbes and their dynamic interactions with each other and with the host play critical roles in human development and health.

While mostly beneficial, bacteria within the microbiome also contribute to disease: as pathogens, as reservoirs of antibiotic resistance and virulent genes, and, when these microbial communities become out of sync with their host, as drivers of chronic inflammatory diseases.

Michael Surette, a professor of medicine and one of Canada’s top microbiologists, is shedding new light on why some microbes keep us healthy while others cause illness, what role our microbes play in chronic diseases, how the microbiome develops and changes across the lifespan, and how changes with age affect susceptibility to disease.

While it is often stated that most of the microbiome is not accessible by laboratory culturing methods, Surette’s lab has challenged this assumption. His pioneering approach combining culture-enriched molecular profiling with state-of-the-art genome sequencing allows his laboratory to routinely grow more than 99.9% of bacterial populations, and typically recovers 2-3 times the diversity of bacteria than recovered by molecular profiling alone.

These approaches are being used to investigate specific diseases such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome, and to address fundamental questions about microbe-microbe/host interactions. Exploiting beneficial properties of the human microbiota holds promise for the development of new microbiome-derived therapies for the treatment of a wide range of conditions impacted by the health of our microbiota.