New Brunswick, N.J. (Jan. 16, 2020) – Rutgers professors Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello and Martin J. Blaser are available to discuss a paper in the journal Science today on whether diseases long thought to be noncommunicable – such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and chronic respiratory illnesses – can actually be transmitted from person to person via the microbes that live on and in our bodies.

The profess​ors are part of a team of CIFAR ​Humans & the Microbiome​ program fellows who propose the hypothesis that these diseases may be transmitted through the microbiome – the bacteria, fungi and viruses that populate the human body, according to a CIFAR news release

“Noncommunicable diseases,” including heart disease, cancer and lung disease, are now the most common causes of death​, accounting for 70 percent of deaths worldwide. These diseases are considered “noncommunicable” because they are thought to be caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors and can’t be transmitted between people.

The perspective paper throws this long-held belief into question. While the implications of their new hypothesis would be extremely important, the researchers make clear that much remains unknown about whether it is actually true, and the mechanisms involved.

“We still don't know in what cases transmission increases disease risk, or whether healthy outcomes can also be transmitted,” said co-author Dominguez-Bello​, Henry Rutgers Professor of Microbiome and Health, professor of microbiology and anthropology, and interim director of the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “We need more research to understand microbial transmission and its effects.”

Blaser, a physician and co-author, is director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, Henry Rutgers Chair of the Human Microbiome and a professor in the Departments of Medicine and Microbiology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.

CIFAR is a Canadian-based global charitable organization that convenes extraordinary minds to address the most important questions facing science and humanity.

The paper:

For interviews with professors Dominguez-Bello and Blaser, please contact Todd Bates at [email protected]                        


Broadcast interviews: Rutgers University has broadcast-quality TV and radio studios available for remote live or taped interviews with Rutgers experts. For more information, contact Neal Buccino at [email protected]

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