Nutrachampion episode twenty

LISTEN: Gut microbiome, elderly, and HIV - Prof Balamurugan Ramadass on studying ‘overlooked’ populations at new India research centre

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

LISTEN: Gut microbiome, elderly, and HIV - Prof Balamurugan Ramadass on studying ‘overlooked’ populations at new India research centre

Related tags India Gut microbiome Healthy ageing Probiotics

Indian researcher Professor Balamurugan Ramadass has detailed how he plans to build on his studies of the gut microbiome and malnutrition in overlooked populations, specifically the elderly and HIV positive patients, through a newly established research centre.

Professor Ramadass, additional professor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) based in Bhubaneswar, is the guest of our 20th​ Nutrachampion podcast.

He has been studying the gut microbiome since 2002 with his mentor Professor Balakrishna S Ramakrishna, a practicing gastroenterologist who currently heads the Gastroenterology department at the SRM Institutes for Medical Science.

Throughout the years, he has studied the links between gut microbiome and specific health conditions, such as anaemia and knee osteoarthritis.

One of his latest research​ undertakings showed that knee osteoarthritis patients have a different gut microbiome composition as compared to healthy individuals.

Another paper published in 2017​ found an inverse relationship between faecal iron concentration and faecal Lactobacillus ​concentration. 

Prof Balamurugan Ramadass
Professor Balamurugan Ramadass

Last May, he officially set up the Center of Excellence for Clinical Microbiome Research housed in AIIMS with the goal of conducting multi-displinary research on the gut microbiome.

We are going to translate the microbiome knowledge to patient care, that’s the focus of the center and we will work on a spectrum of diseases, from sleep disorders to bladder cancer to undernutrition,” ​he said.

Some of the upcoming research will also focus on populations that he said has been “overlooked”,​ including the elderly and HIV positive children.

For example, he plans to conduct a clinical trial on using fermented rice water as a form of nutrient supplementation for HIV positive children. He is also proposing the study of vitamin D supplementation in reducing frailty in the elderly.

Compared to 20 years ago, researchers today have access to sophisticated analytical tools which he said could better support gut microbiome research.

We were technologically behind in 2002 and the funds to set up these facilities were limited. Between 2006 and 2008, we started generating a lot of data, but we were behind in terms of data analysis and I think these were the two major drawbacks.

In the last three to four years, people have picked up [microbiome research], doing lots of work and I think in the years to come, things might do well.

Listen to find out more.

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