TOPEKA, KAN. — Hill’s Pet Nutrition has teamed up with a researcher from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to create the One Health Microbiome Resource (OHMR). According to Hill’s, the OHMR will be the first of its kind, providing the largest and most comprehensive reference database of both pet and human microbiomes to help advance the understanding of pet and human health.

To create the OHMR, Hill’s has chosen to partner with researcher Curtis Huttenhower, Ph.D., professor of computational biology and bioinformatics at Harvard Chan School and co-director of the Harvard Chan Microbiome in Public Health Center.

“Because pets are members of the family, many consider their nutrition to be just as crucial as that of our human family members,” Huttenhower said. “The same can be said for their microbial communities. The OHMR provides a new way to improve both human and animal health through nutrition, better environmental exposures, and inter-individual resource sharing on a day-to-day basis. We believe improving a pet’s microbiome positively impacts a pet parent’s well-being and vice versa.”

Hill’s OHMR will include microbiome genomes and pet microbial profiles. With microbiome health becoming an increasingly important area of study in maintaining overall health and understanding diseases, the database will represent a key development for researchers, according to Hill’s.

“We’re excited to build on the foundation of human microbiome research to bring better nutrition and immune health to companion animals as well,” Huttenhower said. “In the past decade, we’ve learned quite a bit about the human microbiome that can be applied to pets, and with the OHMR, we hope to expand this, and make the reverse true as well. Living with pets is already known to improve immune development in infants, and the OHMR will help us to understand how and why this occurs. Plus, it’s especially important to build healthy, microbiome-aware diets for pets.”

As part of the project, Hill’s provided a significant amount of DNA sequencing resources that, according to the pet food company, “dwarf those previously included in the scientific literature, expanding them by a factor of almost five-fold.” The data will be used to create new types of companion animal microbiomes analyses to advance the overall understanding of microbiome health.

The collaboration is just part of Hill’s existing research in pet microbiomes. The company has leveraged its world-class global Pet Nutrition Center, as well as advanced technology, to increase its knowledge of how nutrition plays a role in pet microbiome health.

“For more than a decade, Hill’s has invested in pet microbiome research to explore and harness its benefits to improve pet health through nutrition,” said Dave Baloga, executive vice president of science and technology at Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “We hope the formation of the One Health Microbiome Resource, together with Dr. Huttenhower at Harvard Chan School, will provide a platform for scientists to enhance the understanding of the microbiome’s role in improving health, for both pets and humans. This reflects Hill’s mission statement, which is to help enrich and lengthen the unique relationship between people and their pets.”

Resources and data from the OHMR will be available to the entire scientific community in order to help advance overall microbiome research in humans and pets.

“The OHMR will help bring renewed attention to and much needed data for the pet microbiome space, which traditionally has faced underrepresentation in terms of existing resources,” Baloga said. “We’re hopeful and excited to support more harmonized efforts to enable more generalized, reproducible results that will leverage the benefits of microbiome science for therapeutic purposes.”

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