Are Noncommunicable Diseases Communicable?

(Or…The Latest Finlay Video Upload)

Last week Science published a perspective article authored by my boss B. Brett Finlay and members of the CIFAR (Canadian Institute for Advanced Research) Humans and the Microbiome Program (HMB). CIFAR-HMB explores how the microbiome influences human evolution, anthropology, and health (particularly at the “bookends” of life: perinatal development and ageing).

I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to attend CIFAR-HMB meetings as a program reporter–covering various HMB sessions and outreach initiatives. During a 2019 Toronto meeting, discussions emerged regarding disease/mortality trends. Overall rates of communicable (infectious) diseases have decreased in the past century. In contrast, the prevalence of “noncommunicable” diseases (e.g. dementia, cardiovascular disease) has risen.

Ongoing research suggests that gut microbes may contribute to the aetiology and pathology of certain “noncommunicable” conditions. If so, spreading impaired microbial communities may increase the risk of transmitting microbiota-associated disease conditions. Of course, this article addresses a largely hypothetical perspective. Don’t worry–you won’t catch heart disease from bugs within a sneeze!! However, the microbial-transmission model raises some interesting questions…

Are noncommunicable diseases truly noncommunicable? How might researchers prove that microbial transmission contributes to the direct transmission of certain “noncommunicable” disorders? And how could we prevent the spread of disease-associated microbiome communities? Check out the article and promo video!

Happy exploring,



By KCBauer

Hello! My name is KCBauer and I am a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia. I am a researcher, writer, musician, and explorer. Originally from Washington DC, I graduated with a BA in Music and BS in Biology in 2014. This blog focuses on the gut microbiota, the trillions of microorganisms that reside along the digestive tract. My grad research at UBC examines the role of the gut microbiota on human health, brain development, and anthropology. When I am not in the lab, I enjoy ambling through Vancity, listening to music, reading science journals, and hiking. If you have questions, ideas for blog topics, suggestions for place to visit in BC, or corrections send me an email at

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