Abstract

The advances made by microbiome research call for new vocabulary and expansion of our thinking in microbiology. For example, the life-forms presenting in both unicellular and multicellular formats invite us to rethink microbial existence, organization, growth, pathogenicity, and therapeutics in the 21st century. A view of such populations as parts of single organisms with a loose, distributed multicellular organization, introduced here as a germ-ganism, rather than communities, might open up interesting prospects for diagnostics and therapeutics innovation. This study tested and further contextualized the concept of germ-ganism using solid cultures of bacteria and fungi. Based on our findings and the literature reviewed herein, we propose that germ-ganism has synergy with a systems medicine approach by broadening host-environment interactions from cells and microorganisms to a scale of biological ecosystems. Germ-ganism also brings about the possibility of studying the multilevel impacts of novel therapeutic agents within and across networks of microbial ecosystems. The germ-ganism would lend itself, in the long term, to a veritable biocybernetics system, while in the mid-term, we anticipate it will contribute to new diagnostics and therapeutics. Biosecurity applications would be immensely affected by germ-ganism. Industrial applications of germ-ganism are of interest as a more sustainable alternative to costly solutions such as tampered strains/microorganisms. In conclusion, germ-ganism is informed by lessons from microbiome research and invites rethinking microbial existence, organization, and growth as an organism. Germ-ganism has vast ramifications for understanding pathogenicity, and clinical, biosecurity, and biotechnology applications in the current historical moment of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

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cover image OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology
OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology
Volume 26Issue Number 4April 2022
Pages: 204 - 217
PubMed: 35255221

History

Published online: 11 April 2022
Published in print: April 2022
Published ahead of print: 7 March 2022

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Laboratory of Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy, Department of Pharmacy, School of Health Sciences, University of Patras, Patras, Greece.
Stavroula Goudoudaki
Plant Protection Division of Patras, Institute of Industrial and Forage Plants, Patras, Greece.
Stavroula Kritikou
NCPF/UoA, Laboratory of Microbiology, Medical School, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece.
Aphroditi Milioni
NCPF/UoA, Laboratory of Microbiology, Medical School, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece.
Kariofyllis Karamperis
Laboratory of Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy, Department of Pharmacy, School of Health Sciences, University of Patras, Patras, Greece.
Ioannis Giavasis
Laboratory of Food Microbiology and Biotechnology, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Thessaly, Karditsa, Greece.
Laboratory of Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy, Department of Pharmacy, School of Health Sciences, University of Patras, Patras, Greece.
Aristea Velegraki
NCPF/UoA, Laboratory of Microbiology, Medical School, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece.
Yiannis Manoussopoulos [email protected]
Plant Protection Division of Patras, Institute of Industrial and Forage Plants, Patras, Greece.

Notes

Address correspondence to: Yiannis Manoussopoulos, PhD, Plant Protection Division of Patras, Institute of Industrial and Forage Plants, Patras 26424, Greece [email protected]

Authors' Contributions

M.E.K. conceived the operative idea, had the overview of the project, and assisted in setting the specifications for the experimental setup, in the interpretation of the results, and the preparation of the article. A.V. and G.P.P. assisted in the development of the mycological and genomic dimensions of the work, respectively. I.G. developed the bacterial dimension of the work. S.G. performed the experiments with mycelial fungi and assisted in their interpretation and drafting of the article under the guidance of Yiannis Manoussopoulos. A.M. performed the experiments with C. albicans and assisted in their interpretation and drafting of the article under the supervision of Aristea Velegraki.
S.K. performed the experiments with S. aureus and assisted in their interpretation and drafting of the article under the guidance of I.G. K.K. performed most of the bibliographic research and the interpretation of the literature in relation to the original concept, under the guidance of Y.M., who supervised the revisions. All authors made a significant intellectual contribution, read, and approved the final version.

Author Disclosure Statement

The authors declare they have no conflicting financial interests.

Funding Information

This work is, in part, supported by the project “Synthetic Biology: From omics technologies to genomic engineering (OMIC-ENGINE)” (MIS: 5002636), which is implemented under “Reinforcement of the Research and Innovation Infrastructure,” funded by the Operational Programme “Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation”(NSRF 2014-2020), and co-financed by Greece and the European Union (European Regional Development Fund).

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