Introducing the Microbes and Social Equity Working Group: considering the microbial components of social, environmental, and health justice.

The Microbes and Social Equity Working Group was founded in early 2020 by Sue Ishaq, as interest grew following her publication in fall of 2019, “Framing the discussion of microorganisms as a facet of social equity in human health.”

In summer 2021, MSE group membership blossomed to ~ 90 members from around the globe, and “members represent diverse fields, e.g., anthropology, architecture, bioethics, bioinformatics, data science, ecology, engineering, genetics, medicine, microbiology, nutrition, psychology, and sociology, and exhibit expertise in various hosts, systems, and environments beyond human microbiomes. We are researchers, educators, practitioners, and policymakers spanning the globe and career levels.” (Ishaq et al. 2021).

In this publication, 35 of us collaboratively wrote our Mission Statement, our primary objectives, and introduced the group to the world!

Ishaq, S.L., Parada, F.J., Wolf, P.G., Bonilla, C.Y., Carney, M.A., Benezra, A., Wissel, E., Friedman, M., DeAngelis, K.M., Robinson, J.M., Fahimipour, A.K., Manus, M.B., Grieneisen, L., Dietz, L.G., Pathak, A., Chauhan, A., Kuthyar, S., Stewart, J.D., Dasari, M.R., Nonnamaker, E., Choudoir, M., Horve, P.F., Zimmerman, N.B., Kozik, A.J., Darling, K.W., Romero-Olivares, A.L., Hariharan, J., Farmer, N., Maki, K.A., Collier, J.L., O’Doherty, K., Letourneau, J., Kline, J., Moses, P.L., Morar, N. 2021. Introducing the Microbes and Social Equity Working Group: Considering the Microbial Components of Social, Environmental, and Health JusticemSystems 6:4.

Part of the mSystems Special Series: Social Equity as a Means of Resolving Disparities in Microbial Exposure


Humans are inextricably linked to each other and our natural world, and microorganisms lie at the nexus of those interactions. Microorganisms form genetically flexible, taxonomically diverse, and biochemically rich communities, i.e., microbiomes that are integral to the health and development of macroorganisms, societies, and ecosystems. Yet engagement with beneficial microbiomes is dictated by access to public resources, such as nutritious food, clean water and air, safe shelter, social interactions, and effective medicine. In this way, microbiomes have sociopolitical contexts that must be considered. The Microbes and Social Equity (MSE) Working Group connects microbiology with social equity research, education, policy, and practice to understand the interplay of microorganisms, individuals, societies, and ecosystems. Here, we outline opportunities for integrating microbiology and social equity work through broadening education and training; diversifying research topics, methods, and perspectives; and advocating for evidence-based public policy that supports sustainable, equitable, and microbial wealth for all.

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