The Gut Microbiome: A universe inside us


Alexandra Zhernakova
University of Groningen


For me personally, the topic of the gut microbiome represents one of my most long-standing scientific interests. In September 1992, I joined the junior scientific research community in the Department of Infectious Diseases at St. Petersburg Pediatric Medical University. The first presentation I made in this community was on the link of gut dysbiosis with diseases in children.
The level of dysbiosis was determined in an old-fashioned way: as the ratio between beneficial and pathogenic bacteria, based on the number of colonies that were grown from 1 gram of feces. Analysis of dysbiosis was already very popular at that time, and it was a routine protocol for children with gastrointestinal complaints. Our analysis concluded that gut dysbiosis is a signature of allergies, colic and other infant diseases. Since then, I have considered the gut microbiome an important component of health.

In this lecture, I hope to share with you my excitement about the universe of gut microbes. I will first talk about our current understanding of the role of the microbiome in health and then discuss how we will follow-up this knowledge in the future.

Design: LINE UP boek en media bv | Riëtte van Zwol
Illustrations: Kateryna Onistrat & Alexandra Pitkevich
Cover photo/illustration: Jingyuan Fu
Photo author: Henk Veenstra
Editing: Kate McIntyre

Published by University of Groningen Press
Broerstraat 4
9712 CP Groningen


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Author Biography

Alexandra Zhernakova, University of Groningen

After obtaining her M.D., Alexandra (Sasha) Zhernakova worked as a clinical geneticist in the St.Petersburg Center of Medical Genetics. In 2002, she started her research career in the Netherlands by working in a volunteer, then lab analyst and Ph.D. student in the group of Cisca Wijmenga. After her postdoctoral research in LUMC and Harvard Medical School, Alexandra received a Rosalind Franklin fellowship from UMCG, and developed her independent research line in the field of microbiome,
exposome and aging. Alexandra is one of the founders of the Groningen Microbiome Team and a scientific leader of the Lifelines-NEXT cohort, a longitudinal study of motherbaby pairs. In 2022, she was awarded the G.A. Gamow award by the Russian-American Association of Scientists in recognition of her work on the role of intestinal microbiome and virome in diseases and aging.

Cover Inaugural lecture Alaexandra Zhernakova



May 16, 2023


Oratie, Inaugurele rede, Inaugural Lecture, Alexandra Zhernakova, University of Groningen, Rijskuniversiteit Groningen, Faculteit Medische Wetenschappen, Faculty of Medical Sciences