Boot Camp Bugs: Microbiomes of US Infantry Trainees

Nicholas Be | 20-FS-029

Project Overview

Military training places uniquely high demands on the physical and psychological health of soldiers. For example, soldiers in training are at increased risk for infectious diseases that can interrupt training cycles and compromise operational readiness. There are numerous metrics for trainee health and performance. One that has not been explored in depth in this context is the host microbiome, the collection of microbial species associated with the human body. In a longitudinal fashion and across multiple body sites, we used whole metagenome sequencing to examine the human microbiome in a closed cohort of US Army Infantry trainees over the duration of a training cycle. In this feasibility study we successfully demonstrated detection and statistical analysis of microbiome profiles in a unique and challenging sample set. These results lay critical groundwork toward more expansive tracking of microbial factors that could be employed for supporting the health, readiness, and performance of future warfighters.

Mission Impact

Results from this project demonstrate critical feasibility parameters and emphasize the potential utility of microbiome evaluation for military trainee health, readiness, and performance. These are subjects of critical national importance and fulfill critical components of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) mission in support of the warfighter. The data from this feasibility study lay a foundation for the future utility of collecting data toward optimizing microbiome interventions such as pre/probiotic manipulation. These results and follow-on studies will fundamentally bolster LLNL's core competency in Bioscience and Bioengineering.