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Ethical microbiome research with Indigenous communities


Human–microbiome interactions have been associated with evolutionary, cultural and environmental processes. With clinical applications of microbiome research now feasible, it is crucial that the science conducted, particularly among Indigenous communities, adheres to principles of inclusion. This necessitates a transdisciplinary dialogue to decide how biological samples are collected and who benefits from the research and any derived products. As a group of scholars working at the interface of biological and social science, we offer a candid discussion of the lessons learned from our own research and introduce one approach to carry out ethical microbiome research with Indigenous communities.

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This work was funded by a National Science Foundation SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (award no. 1810060), the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska–Curie grant agreement no. 847693, the National Human Genome Research Institute and the Center for the Ethics of Indigenous Genomics Research (grant no. RM1HG009042), and the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. The authors thank those who evaluated previous versions of the manuscript and provided critical comments, provided opportunities to present early drafts and fostered insightful discussions throughout the process of constructing this work: H. Bachner, H. C. Barrett, D. Benyshek, D. Berry, G. Caniglia, A. Gomez, B. Hewlett, R. Hitchcock, C. Hofman, D. Shopo, J. Indaya, A. Laciny, W. Lukasi, I. Mabulla, R. Matiyas, S. Strum and D. Western.

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Correspondence to Alyssa N. Crittenden.

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S.M.M. and A.N.C. declare non-financial competing interests as unpaid board members for a 501c(3) educational non-profit organization that works with the Hadzabe community, the Olanakwe Community Fund ( The work of the mutual aid organization is unrelated to biological research. S.L.S. and J.R.L. declare no competing interests.

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Mangola, S.M., Lund, J.R., Schnorr, S.L. et al. Ethical microbiome research with Indigenous communities. Nat Microbiol 7, 749–756 (2022).

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