Martin J. Blaser

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Martin J. Blaser, MD, in his lab with Xuesong Zhang, PhD. Photo by Carl Glenn

Martin J. Blaser (born 1948) [1] is the director of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine (CABM) at Rutgers (NJ) Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) and the Henry Rutgers Chair of the Human Microbiome and Professor of Medicine and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.[2]

In 2013, Blaser was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is an established researcher in microbiology and infectious diseases. Blaser's work has focused on Helicobacter pylori, Campylobacter species, Salmonella, Bacillus anthracis, and on the human microbiome.[3][4]

Education, early work, recent service[edit]

Blaser obtained his undergraduate education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969, graduated from the New York University School of Medicine in 1973, and did his post-graduate training at the University of Colorado School of Medicine from 1973 to 1979.[5]

Blaser has, since 2013, been married to fellow microbiome researcher and colleague Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello.[6][7] Two prior marriages,[8] first to the artist Susan J. Walp and later to the writer and editor Ronna Wineberg ended in divorce.

Blaser was an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1979 to 1981.[9]

In 1998, Blaser established the Foundation for Bacteria, which started the Virtual Museum of Bacteria.[10]

Blaser was elected as the President of the Infectious Diseases Society of America in 2006 for a one-year term.[11] He has served the National Institutes of Health on the Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Cancer Institute (2005–2010; Chair 2009–2010), and on the Advisory Board for Clinical Research (2009–2013; Chair 2012-2013). In 2011, he was elected into the National Academy of Medicine (formerly Institute of Medicine), in recognition of professional achievement and commitment to service in medicine and health.[9]

In 2014, he was the Kinyoun Lecturer at the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at NIH, and received the Alexander Fleming Award for lifetime achievement from the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He received the Cura Personalis award from Georgetown University in 2015. His scientific papers have been cited more than 130,000 times (Google Scholar).

In 2015, he was selected to be in the TIME 100 Most Influential People in the world,[12] He served on the Advisory Council of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) of the National Institutes of Health from 2015-2019. He was appointed as the Chair of the President's Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (PACCARB) for a term from 2015–2022. In 2019, he founded the Rutgers University Microbiome Program (RUMP), which is a university-wide project to develop microbiome science, and examine its impact on health, agriculture, the environment, and human culture. He now co-leads RUMP with Rutgers professors Maria Gloria Dominguez Bello and Liping Zhao.

Blaser sits on scientific advisory boards for Elysium Health,[13][14] Procter & Gamble, Dupont, and several biotechnology start-up companies. In June 2018, Blaser joined the Scientific Advisory Board of the newly founded Seed.[15] In December 2020, he became the chair of start-up Micronoma's scientific advisory board.[16][17] He is a senior advisor to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and a Puretech Health company Collaborator. In 2019 he received the Robert-Koch-Medal in Gold, and the Karl August Mobius Fellowship from Kiel Life Sciences.[18] In 2020, he received the Prize Medal from the Microbiology Society (UK), for his studies of the human microbiome including Helicobacter pylori as an agent of disease in humans.[19]


Blaser is best known[20] for his studies of Helicobacter pylori and its relationship with human diseases.[21][22] Initially dismissive and skeptical of Nobel laureate Barry Marshall's findings of H. Pylori's relationship to gastric and peptic ulcers, which Blaser described as "the most preposterous thing I’d ever heard; I thought, this guy is a madman,”[23][24] Blaser's work nonetheless later helped establish the role of H. pylori in the causation of gastric cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in the world.[25] Studies of the diversity of H. pylori lead him to identify the CagA protein and its gene in 1989, which broadened understanding of H. pylori interactions with humans.[26] His team found that cagA+ strains induced enhanced host responses, development of atrophic gastritis, gastric cancer, and peptic ulcer disease, compared to cagA− strains, and that cagA+ strains signal human gastric cells differently from cagA− strains, and affect gastric physiology in markedly different ways than in the absence of H. pylori.[22] This work led to a general model for the persistence of co-evolved organisms, based on the presence of a Nash equilibrium,[27] and also for the relationship of persisting microbes to cancer,[28] and age-related mortality.[29]

Beginning in 1996, he hypothesized that H. pylori strains might have benefit to humans as well as costs.[30] Despite considerable and ongoing skepticism by the community of H. pylori investigators, Blaser and his colleagues progressively developed a body of research that provided evidence that gastric colonization by this organism provided protection against the esophageal diseases of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), Barrett's esophagus, and esophageal adenocarcinoma, work that has since been confirmed by independent investigators.[31] His work has suggested a benefit of H. pylori against such early life illnesses as childhood diarrhea and asthma. This work is consistent with the hypothesis that H. pylori is an ancient, universal inhabitant of the human stomach[32] that has been disappearing as a result of 20th century changes in socio-economic status, including the use of antibiotics and that this loss has health consequences, not only good (less gastric cancer), but bad as well.

In 1998, Blaser created the term acagia, to indicate a susceptibility for esophageal diseases in persons not carrying cagA+ H. pylori strains. Since then, acagia has come to reflect the rise in other diseases associated with the loss of cagA+ H. pylori, and may become a metaphor for the disappearance of members of the human microbiome that have symbiotic roles.[28][31] In 2009, with Stanley Falkow, he hypothesized that human microecology is rapidly changing with potentially substantial consequences.[33] He envisioned a step-wise (generational) change to explain the epidemic rise of such diseases as childhood-onset asthma and obesity. Blaser has proposed that greater understanding of our indigenous (and sometimes disappearing) microbiota can lead to improvements in human health.[34]

He has proposed that the routine use (and overuse) of antibiotics in young children may be causing collateral damage, with extinctions of our ancient microbiota at critical stages of early life.[35] This scenario may be contributing to the risk of epidemic metabolic, immunologic, and developmental disorders.[35] Studies in mice have contributed strong support to these hypotheses.,[36][37][38] and on-going work in children with reference to many diseases,[39] including asthma,[40][41][42] show the importance of early life microbiome perturbation in increasing risk.[43] Recent studies provided evidence that the effects of antibiotic perturbation on the microbiota can be transmitted via the mother to the next generation, affecting both intestinal micro-ecology and disease manifestations.[44][45]

Missing Microbes[edit]

Blaser is the author of a book for general audiences, Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues, about the degradation of internal microbial ecosystems of humans as a result of modern medical practices. Professional science writer Sandra Blakeslee helped write Missing Microbes[46], which was published by Henry Holt and Co. in April 2014, and has been translated into 20 languages.[47][48][49][50] The book was a finalist for the 2015 LA Times Book Prize in Science, and won the National Library of China's 2017 Wenjin Book Award. Under the leadership of his wife, Maria Gloria Dominguez Bello, a group of scientists have formed the Microbiota Vault, Inc. ( ), a not-for-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) public charity in the United States; Blaser serves as a member of the Board of Directors and an officer of the Foundation. Modeled after the Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway, the Microbiota Vault has the purpose of creating a repository for the preservation of the human microbiota for future generations before it disappears, and fostering research and education about the human microbiota in developing countries.[51]


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  4. ^ NYU Blaser Lab Website
  5. ^ Blaser, MJ; Berkowitz, ID; LaForce, FM; Cravens, J; Reller, LB; Wang (1979). "Clinical and epidemiologic features". Annals of Internal Medicine. 91 (2): 179–185. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-91-2-179. PMID 380433.
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  19. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ "The twists and turns of fate", The Economist. "Germs are Us. Bacteria makes us sick. Do they also keep us alive?" The New Yorker by Michael Specter. October 22, 2012.
  21. ^ Blaser MJ. "The bacteria behind ulcers. Scientific American February, 1996; 274:104–109.
  22. ^ a b Atherton, JC; Blaser, MJ (2009). "Co-adaptation of Helicobacter pylori and humans: ancient history, modern implications". Journal of Clinical Investigation. 119 (9): 2475–87. doi:10.1172/jci38605. PMC 2735910. PMID 19729845.
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  24. ^ "Ulcers.and.Bacteria". Retrieved 2021-01-10.
  25. ^ Nomura, A; Stemmerman, GN; Chyou, P-H; Kato, I; Pérez-Pérez, GI; Blaser, MJ (1991). "Helicobacter pylori infection and gastric carcinoma in a population of Japanese-Americans in Hawaii". New England Journal of Medicine. 325 (16): 1132–1136. doi:10.1056/nejm199110173251604. PMID 1891021.
  26. ^ Blaser, MJ; Pérez-Pérez, GI; Kleanthous, H; Cover, TL; Peek, RM; Chyou, PH; Stemmermann, GN; Nomura, A (1995). "Infection with Helicobacter pylori strains possessing cagA associated with an increased risk of developing adenocarcinoma of the stomach". Cancer Research. 55 (10): 2111–2115. PMID 7743510.
  27. ^ Blaser, MJ; Kirschner, D (2007). "The equilibria that permit bacterial persistence in human hosts". Nature. 449 (7164): 843–849. doi:10.1038/nature06198. hdl:2027.42/62883. PMID 17943121. S2CID 3166518.
  28. ^ a b Blaser MJ. Understanding microbe-induced cancers. Cancer Prevention Research 2008; 1:15–20.
  29. ^ Blaser, MJ; Webb, GF (2014). "Host demise as a beneficial function of indigenous microbiota in human hosts". mBio. 5 (6): 1–9. doi:10.1128/mBio.02262-14. PMC 4271553. PMID 25516618.
  30. ^ Blaser MJ. "An endangered species in the stomach. Scientific American, February 2005; 292:38–45.
  31. ^ a b Blaser, MJ (2008). "Disappearing microbiota: Helicobacter pylori protection against esophageal adenocarcinoma". Cancer Prevention Research. 1 (5): 308–311. doi:10.1158/1940-6207.capr-08-0170. PMID 19138974.
  32. ^ Blaser, MJ (2006). "Who are we? Indigenous microbes and the ecology of human diseases". EMBO Reports. 7 (10): 956–960. doi:10.1038/sj.embor.7400812. PMC 1618379. PMID 17016449.
  33. ^ Blaser, MJ; Falkow, S (2009). "What are the consequences of the disappearing human microbiota?". Nature Reviews Microbiology. 7 (12): 887–894. doi:10.1038/nrmicro2245. PMID 19898491. S2CID 8502776.
  34. ^ Blaser, MJ (2010). "Harnessing the power of the human microbiome". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 107 (14): 6125–6126. doi:10.1073/pnas.1002112107. PMC 2851969. PMID 20360554.
  35. ^ a b Blaser (2011). "Stop the killing of beneficial bacteria". Nature. 476 (7361): 393–394. doi:10.1038/476393a. PMID 21866137. S2CID 205066874.
  36. ^ Cho, I; Yamanishi, S; Cox, L; Methé, BA; Zavadil, J; Li, K; Gao, Z; Mahana, D; Raju, K; Teitler, I; Li, H; Alekseyenko, AV; Blaser, MJ (2012). "Antibiotics in early life alter the murine colonic microbiome and adiposity". Nature. 488 (7413): 621–6. doi:10.1038/nature11400. PMC 3553221. PMID 22914093.
  37. ^ Cox, LM; et al. (Aug 2014). "Altering the intestinal microbiota during a critical developmental window has lasting metabolic consequences". Cell. 158 (4): 705–21. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2014.05.052. PMC 4134513. PMID 25126780.
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  39. ^ Trasande, L; Blustein, J; Liu, M; Corwin, E; Cox, LM; Blaser, MJ (2013). "Infant antibiotic exposures and early life body mass". International Journal of Obesity. 37 (1): 16–23. doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.132. PMC 3798029. PMID 22907693.
  40. ^ Arrieta, M-C; et al. (2015). "Early infancy microbial and metabolic alterations affect risk of childhood asthma". Science Translational Medicine. 7 (307): 307ra152. doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.aab2271. PMID 26424567. S2CID 206687974.
  41. ^ Stokholm, Jakob; Blaser, Martin J.; Thorsen, Jonathan; Rasmussen, Morten A.; Waage, Johannes; Vinding, Rebecca K.; Schoos, Ann-Marie M.; Kunøe, Asja; Fink, Nadia R.; Chawes, Bo L.; Bønnelykke, Klaus (December 2018). "Maturation of the gut microbiome and risk of asthma in childhood". Nature Communications. 9 (1): 141. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02573-2. ISSN 2041-1723. PMC 5762761. PMID 29321519.
  42. ^ Borbet, Timothy C.; Zhang, Xiaozhou; Müller, Anne; Blaser, Martin J. (December 2019). "The role of the changing human microbiome in the asthma pandemic". Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 144 (6): 1457–1466. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2019.10.022. PMC 6905199. PMID 31812180.
  43. ^ Dominguez-Bello MG, Blaser MJ. "Asthma: Undoing millions of years of co-evolution in early life? Science Translational Medicine 2015; 7:307fs39.
  44. ^ Schulfer, Anjelique F.; Battaglia, Thomas; Alvarez, Yelina; Bijnens, Luc; Ruiz, Victoria E.; Ho, Melody; Robinson, Serina; Ward, Tonya; Cox, Laura M. (2017-11-27). "Intergenerational transfer of antibiotic-perturbed microbiota enhances colitis in susceptible mice". Nature Microbiology. 3 (2): 234–242. doi:10.1038/s41564-017-0075-5. ISSN 2058-5276. PMC 5780248. PMID 29180726.
  45. ^ Blaser, Martin J. (March 2018). "The Past and Future Biology of the Human Microbiome in an Age of Extinctions". Cell. 172 (6): 1173–1177. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2018.02.040. ISSN 0092-8674. PMID 29522739.
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  51. ^ Dominguez Bello, Maria Gloria (5 October 2018). "Preserving human microbial diversity: Microbiota from humans of all cultures are needed to ensure the health of future generations". Science. 362 (6410): 33–34. doi:10.1126/science.aau8816. PMID 30287652. S2CID 52919917.

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