Science Cafe May 2017: It takes GUTs to study MICROBIOME



The Microbiome Science Café took place at Dewan Serbaguna (Faculty of Medicine, UM) on 9th May 2017 with the theme “It takes GUTs to study MICROBIOME”.  The event started with Deputy Dean of Research, Professor Dr. Yvonne Lim Ai Lian, a parasitologist from Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine. Prof Yvonne spoke about “Helminths and Gut Microbiota: Are they a palatable combination?” She emphasized that although helminth infections are known to cause diseases to the patients, studies have also shown that helminths could be regarded as friends and not just foes. Intestinal helminths have co-evolved together with their human hosts over several hundred million years, and to ensure their long-term survival, helminths have evolved crucial mechanisms to modulate the host immune response. This was discovered during their study conducted at Temuan subtribe of the indigenous population in the state of Selangor, Malaysia. Helminth infections were found to have influenced the diversity of the gut microbiota which played critical roles in regulating innate and adaptive immune homeostasis. The gut microbiota in helminth-positive individuals was more diverse than helminth-negative individuals. Helminths altered the composition of gut microbiota by triggering immunomodulation (increase mucus production) as a conductive environment for the growth of the “good” bacteria and thus reduce the “bad bacteria”.

Ms. Chua Ling Ling, a PhD candidate continued with her topic on “Microbial Signature in Childhood Cancer Survivors”. Adult childhood cancer survivors (CCS) have a higher risk of premature age-related comorbidities. Gut microbiota dysbiosis has been found to be associated with development of various diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity. She proposed that this could be associated with the gut microbiota changes and immune dsyregulation in adult CCS. During the treatment of cancer, patient’s gut microbiota diversity may have decreased or changed due to the exposure to chemotherapy, high-dosage antibiotics, radiotherapy etc. These changes may persist into adulthood and affect the immune system, thereby increase the risk of comorbidities in CCS. From her findings, she noticed a reduction in gut microbiota diversity and a distinct microbiota profile in the adult of childhood cancer survivor (CCS). Several of the taxa that are differently abundant in the CCS (compared to controls) are also associated with blood inflammation markers.  

Third presentation was delivered by Dr. Lee Soo Ching from Department of Parasitology, on the topic of “How to Visualize the Gut Microbiota Profile”. In her session, she introduced various visualization software that can be applied in the microbiome study. Information such as alpha diversity (species richness and evenness), beta diversity (compare species diversity between samples on how similar are these samples) and the prediction of microbial functions can be deduced by using various softwares. The most challenging in using this software is it requires the users to acquire basic programming knowledge such as Python and R programming language. In view of requests for such a training, a workshop will be organized on the 1st and 2nd August 2017 and the details of the workshop will be circulated through UMinfo soon.

Last but not least, the May 2017 Science Café ended with an inspiring speech by Professor Dr Yvonne. She mentioned that good research or collaboration always starts from understanding our own strength and knowing how to use our strength to solve a research problem. We have to be realistic about our strength and constraints by collaborating with those who can enhance our strength and complement our limitations. It is important to be aware of our next research plan and development by constantly keeping track of what our findings are telling us.

Overall, the content of the presentation impassioned great discussion on how powerful a data can be when analysed using various bioinformatics analyses. It was evident that those who attended the event found it captivating and thought-provoking.

Next Science Café: Prof Frederick L. Altice, Director of Clinical and Community Research, Yale University School of Medicine and School of Public Health, Title: Real-World Implementation Science in Action: Lessons Learned from Ukraine. 8th June 2017, 1-2PM Bilik Serbaguna,

Contact information:

Prof Yvonne Lim Ai Lian,

Dr. Lee Soo Ching,

Chua Ling Ling, 

Research Management Centre, Faculty of Medicine, UM


Download Here:

1) Helminths and Gut Microbiota: Are they a palatable combination?

2)A Different Microbial Signature in Childhood Cancer Survivors ( Please email: for this notes

3) Science Cafe: It Takes GUTs to study MICROBIOME

4) Visualization of Gut Microbiota Profile( Please email: for this notes