The goals of the Primate Microbiome Project lie in four core areas of focus.

The PMP aims to collect and sequence gut microbial communities from primates covering the entire tree of primate evolution. We will then integrate other important information regarding sampled individuals’ diet, health, ancestry, and other factors to better understand the roles of microbes in primate health, evolution, behavior, and conservation. Some example expected impacts of the PMP lying in these four core areas of focus are as follows.

 

Health
  • Microbes can act as indicators for health of the host, and we expect that broad primate microbiome surveys will allow us to develop predictive biomarkers for certain primate diseases.

  • Primates are the closest animal models to humans, and understanding what drives the structure and variation of their microbiota will help us understand our own.

  • Health and pathogen resistance in primates have direct links to human health, for example in the case of simian immunodeficiency virus.

 

Evolution
  • Broad sampling of microbiota across the tree of primate life will help improve our understanding of the co-evolution of host and microbes in primates.

  • The gut microbiota may have played an important role in primate specialization of diet and gut physiology; the PMP aims to determine this role.

 

Behavior
  • Gut-brain communication is well established in other animal models. By collecting longitudinal and cross-sectional gut microbiome samples while tracking feeding and social behavior of individual animals, the PMP will allow us to determine how microbes may influence primate behavior.

 

Conservation
  • Some endangered primate species fail to thrive in captivity due to gastrointestinal issues; through comparison of wild and captive animals within the same species the PMP will determine whether shifts in gut microbiota are linked with gastrointestinal health in captivity.

  • Primates can act as sentinels for unhealthy shifts in their habitat ecosystems; the PMP will help determine if shifts in their gut microbiota accompany increased stress or other health issues related to habitat encroachment.