Microbiome ethics, guiding principles for microbiome research, use and knowledge management

Lene Lange*, Gabriele Berg, Tomislav Cernava, Marie Christine Champomier-Vergès, Trevor Charles, Luca Cocolin, Paul Cotter, Kathleen D’Hondt, Tanja Kostic, Emmanuelle Maguin, Thulani Makhalanyane, Annelein Meisner, Matthew Ryan, George Seghal Kiran, Rafael Soares de Souza, Yolanda Sanz, Michael Schloter, Hauke Smidt, Steve Wakelin, Angela Sessitsch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The overarching biological impact of microbiomes on their hosts, and more generally their environment, reflects the co-evolution of a mutualistic symbiosis, generating fitness for both. Knowledge of microbiomes, their systemic role, interactions, and impact grows exponentially. When a research field of importance for planetary health evolves so rapidly, it is essential to consider it from an ethical holistic perspective. However, to date, the topic of microbiome ethics has received relatively little attention considering its importance. Here, ethical analysis of microbiome research, innovation, use, and potential impact is structured around the four cornerstone principles of ethics: Do Good; Don’t Harm; Respect; Act Justly. This simple, but not simplistic approach allows ethical issues to be communicative and operational. The essence of the paper is captured in a set of eleven microbiome ethics recommendations, e.g., proposing gut microbiome status as common global heritage, similar to the internationally agreed status of major food crops.

Original languageEnglish
Article number50
JournalEnvironmental Microbiomes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2022


  • Ethics
  • FAIR principles
  • FAO International Treaty
  • Global common heritage
  • Microbiome
  • Planetary health


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