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Identifying Potential BIOmarkers Within Unhealthy Environments

  • Assessment of bacterial community structure within the human gut of infants affected by necrotizing enterocolitis

    • Penn State Hershey Medical Center collected fecal samples from over 150 human babies diagnosed with the potentially fatal condition necrotizing enterocolitis, in which the tissue of the intestinal wall dies and causes a number of symptoms within premature infants. Few studies, if any, have investigated the overall microbial community structure within infants afflicted with this degenerative condition. Our initial analysis has revealed distinct changes in bacterial community structure of infants born from mothers who were taking prescription antibiotics, when compared to mothers not taking antibiotics. Additionally, taxa enriched in babies born from mothers with distinct genomic variation were identified. In the future, as additional samples are analyzed, we hope to indicate potential biomarker taxa in babies with this disorder.


Identifying Potential Bioremediators

  • Groundwater samples contaminated with a high level of dichloromethane

    • A groundwater sampling location containing sites with severe levels of dichloromethane contamination underwent analysis to determine if any potential dichloromethane degraders were thriving in any of the contaminated sites. Our initial analysis revealed a number of microbes that thrived in the dichloromethane contaminated environment, potentially capable of degrading the contaminant.

Comparing Microbial Composition Between Multiple Environments

  • Comparing microbial community structure between fracked and unfracked streams in central Pennsylvania

    • An extensive project that has been in the works for two years, over 20 streams within central PA underwent microbial community analysis to see how microbial composition compared between sites that were impacted by fracking, and streams that were not impacted. In our analysis, we found that there were significant differences between the microbial communities of fracked and unfracked sampling sites.

  • Microbial community response to a resistant starch diet

    • To determine the effect of dietary resistant starch on the gut microbiome and human health, Kaust collected fecal samples and recorded physiological measurments from 39 patients placed on a varying resistant starch diets. Through our research, we were able to define the microbial community structure dynamics associated with each variant of the resistant starch diet. Once community structure was defined, we were able to determine which members of the gut microbial community correlated with physiological responses to resistant starch diets. 

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