Why are the microbes living in your gut different from mine? Am I worse off? Better?

Click to enlargeKerri
A wall of bacterial colonies on agar plates – the Micropia, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

There are tens of trillions of bacteria in my gut and they are different from those in yours. Why?

This is a really basic question about the human microbiome and, rather vexingly, we still don’t have a good answer. Sure, we know some of the things that influence the roll call of species — diet and antibiotics, to name a few—but their relative importance is unclear and the list is far from complete. That bodes poorly for any attempt to work out whether these microbes are involved in diseases, and whether they can be tweaked to improve our health.

Two new studies have tried to address the problem. They’re the largest microbiome studies thus far published, looking at 1,135 Dutch adults and 1,106 Belgians respectively. Both looked at how hundreds of factors affect the microbiome, including age, height, weight, sleep, medical history, smoking, allergies, blood levels of various molecules, and a long list of foods. Both found dozens of factors that affect either the overall diversity of microbial species, or the abundance of particular ones. And encouragingly, their respective lists overlap considerably.

But here’s the important thing: Collectively, the factors they identified explain a tiny proportion of the variation between people’s microbiomes — 19 percent in the Dutch study, and just 8 percent in the Belgian. Which means we’re still largely in the dark about what makes my microbiome different from yours, let alone whether one is healthier than the other.

❝ “With all the knowledge we’ve gathered, we made the best possible effort to capture all the factors we could imagine, and we could only explain 8 percent of the total variation,” says Jeroen Raes from the University of Leuven, who led the Belgian study. “It’s very humbling.”…

We haven’t even identified all the players yet. By combining data from the Dutch and Flemish studies with earlier British and American ones, Raes’s team identified a total number of 664 bacterial genera. But they estimate that at least 80 more haven’t been identified, and doing so will take studies that are ten times larger than the current record-holders. That’s a common theme throughout all of microbiology — the unknowns are vast. “Even though we’re the biggest study out there, we’re still scratching the surface when it comes to charting the whole microbiota population,” says Raes. “We should be humble.”

Longish well-written article. Read it. Not a lot of conclusions; but, you should consider the questions. They apply to your own life.

65 thoughts on “Why are the microbes living in your gut different from mine? Am I worse off? Better?

  1. Kasper Gutman says:

    “Yeast infection linked to mental illness : Candida infections also more common among those with memory loss” (Johns Hopkins Medicine) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-05/jhm-yil050316.php In a study prompted in part by suggestions from people with mental illness, Johns Hopkins researchers found that a history of Candida yeast infections was more common in a group of men with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder than in those without these disorders, and that women with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who tested positive for Candida performed worse on a standard memory test than women with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who had no evidence of past infection. The researchers caution that their findings, described online on May 4 in “Schizophrenia” (a new publication from Nature Publishing Group) do not establish a cause-and-effect relationship between mental illness and yeast infections but may support a more detailed examination into the role of lifestyle, immune system weaknesses and gut-brain connections as contributing factors to the risk of psychiatric disorders and memory impairment.

    • Press release says:

      University of British Columbia microbiologists have found a yeast in the gut of new babies in Ecuador that appears to be a strong predictor that they will develop asthma in childhood. The new research furthers our understanding of the role microscopic organisms play in our overall health. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-02/uobc-yfi021417.php
      “Children with this type of yeast called Pichia were much more at risk of asthma,” said Brett Finlay, a microbiologist at UBC. “This is the first time anyone has shown any kind of association between yeast and asthma.”
      In previous research, Finlay and his colleagues identified four gut bacteria in Canadian children that, if present in the first 100 days of life, seem to prevent asthma. http://news.ubc.ca/2015/09/30/four-gut-bacteria-decrease-asthma-risk-in-infants/
      Canada and Ecuador both have high rates of asthma with about 10 per cent of the population suffering from the disease.

    • Epiphenomenalist says:

      (11/9/18): “We know the menagerie of microbes in the gut has powerful effects on our health. Could some of these same bacteria be making a home in our brains? A poster presented here this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience drew attention with high-resolution microscope images of bacteria apparently penetrating and inhabiting the cells of healthy human brains. The work is preliminary, and its authors are careful to note that their tissue samples, collected from cadavers, could have been contaminated. But to many passersby in the exhibit hall, the possibility that bacteria could directly influence processes in the brain—including, perhaps, the course of neurological disease—was exhilarating.” https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/do-gut-bacteria-make-second-home-our-brains
      Researchers have found bacteria somewhere in every brain they’ve checked—34 in all—about half of them healthy, and half from people with schizophrenia.

  2. Vidyā says:

    “The bacteria in and on our bodies have been shown to be vital for human health, influencing nutrition, obesity and protection from diseases.
    But science has only recently delved into the importance of the microbiome of plants. Since plants can’t move, they are especially reliant on partnerships with microbes to help them get nutrients.
    Now, University of Washington plant microbiologist Sharon Doty, along with her team of undergraduate and graduate students and staff, has demonstrated that poplar trees growing in rocky, inhospitable terrain harbor bacteria within them that could provide valuable nutrients to help the plant grow. Their findings, which could have implications for agriculture crop and bioenergy crop productivity, were published May 19 in the journal PLOS ONE. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-05/uow-bib052016.php

  3. Kasper says:

    “Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) — a treatment currently used to address recurring Clostridium difficile infection — is also an effective approach to helping individuals who suffer from ulcerative colitis (UC), according to a study being presented at Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) 2016, the largest international gathering of physicians, researchers and academics in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery.
    …”In recent years, researchers have gained a better understanding of the gut microbiota and the critical role it plays in health and disease, including conditions like ulcerative colitis,” said Sudarshan Paramsothy, MD, a gastroenterologist from the University of New South Wales, Australia. “By using fecal microbiota transplantation, we aim to treat the underlying cause of ulcerative colitis instead of just its symptoms, as opposed to the majority of therapies currently available.” http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-05/ddw-ths051716.php

  4. Thrax says:

    New research presented at the European Obesity Summit in Gothenburg (1-4 June) shows that a New Zealand produced bitter plant extract can supress food intake by stimulating the secretion of gut peptide hormones involved in appetite regulation. The study is by Dr John Ingram and colleagues from the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited and the University of Auckland, New Zealand. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-06/eaft-ba060116.php

  5. Press release says:

    (July 6, 2016) “An increasing number of clinical studies are pointing to a link between the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS) and the composition of microbes in the human gut, sparking new research on the gut microbiome as a potential target for MS treatment and prevention. A comprehensive review article examining the proposed role of gut bacteria and the viruses that infect them in the development and progression of MS is published in Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research (JICR) from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-07/mali-ctg070616.php The article, “Emerging Concepts on the Gut Microbiome and Multiple Sclerosis”, is available free on the JICR website until August 6, 2016. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/jir.2015.0177

  6. Cassandra says:

    “Everyday chemicals may be messing up our microbiomes—but we don’t know : Scientists call for more studies as limited, mixed data hint at insidious harms” http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/07/everyday-chemicals-may-be-messing-up-our-microbiomes-but-we-dont-know/ “Poke around any bathroom or cleaning cabinet in the US and you’re likely to find a product spiked with an antimicrobial chemical. One of the most common of these, triclosan, has shown up in about 75 percent of antibacterial hand soaps and is easily spotted in a range of other goods, from toys to toothpaste. It has also been found in about 75 percent of Americans’ urine. Yet, despite their omnipresence, these antimicrobials go largely unregulated and scientists don’t know their health effects.” See also “Is triclosan harming your microbiome?” http://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6297/348

  7. Song of Myself says:

    “How The Microbes Inside Us Went From Enemies To Purported Superhealers” (NPR) http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/08/09/489171611/how-the-microbes-inside-us-went-from-enemies-to-purported-superhealers “Microbes have always ruled the planet but for the first time in history, they are fashionable,” writes Ed Yong in his new book, “I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life”, on sale Tuesday.
    Yong, a U.K.-based science writer, describes how humans ignored, feared and then lauded the “microscopic menagerie” living inside us and other animals. He explains how these resident bacteria, fungi, archaea and viruses, known collectively as the microbiome, form intimate partnerships with their hosts — contributing to everything from the glow of a squid’s light organ to the development of our own immune systems.

  8. URwhatch'eat says:

    ICU patients lose helpful gut bacteria within days of hospital admission (American Society for Microbiology) http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/asfm-ipl082916.php
    Monkeys in zoos have human gut bacteria : New research gives insight into how diet and lifestyle may affect health http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/uom-miz083016.php A new study led by the University of Minnesota shows that monkeys in captivity lose much of their native gut bacteria diversity and their gut bacteria ends up resembling those of humans. The results suggest that switching to a low-fiber, Western diet may have the power to deplete most normal primate gut microbes in favor of a less diverse set of bacteria and underscores a link between fiber-rich diets and gut microbiome diversity. The study was published in the most recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a leading scientific journal. “Captive primate microbiomes converge toward the modern human microbiome” @ http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/08/24/1521835113

  9. Appendice says:

    On Jan. 9, a team of researchers published a review study suggesting that in the human body the appendix provides a secondary immune function that both catalyzes immune cell responses and floods your gut with beneficial bacteria when they’ve been depleted. In animals that have an appendix, there is a higher concentration of lymphoid tissue in the cecum. The cecum is a part of the digestive tract that begins in the large intestine, from which the appendix stems. The researchers think this lymphoid tissue may be full of cells that trigger an immune reaction when the body is under duress. Additionally, their work supports evidence that the appendix is a reserve of emergency bacteria for when the rest of the gut is wiped clean. Our guts are populated with trillions of microbes (mostly bacteria), that live symbiotically with us. They get a cozy space to live with a constant food supply (both the food we eat and the nutritious mucosal lining coating our intestines), and in return they give us extra nutrients and crowd out infection-causing bacteria. When we take antibiotics or get food poisoning (or anything else that causes the intestines to rapidly evacuate their contents), our guts are completely flushed of all bacteria. “The appendix has a concentration of good gut bacteria that can repopulate the gut,” according to the lead author of the study. https://qz.com/882112/why-do-we-have-an-appendix/

  10. Press release says:

    NASA, ASU collaboration develops 3-D tissue culture models to mimic human gut infections (Arizona State University) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-03/asu-nac030917.php “…with emerging epidemic threats like Zika, Ebola, SARS, TB and others, massive increases in antimicrobial resistance, and the time and cost for developing new antimicrobial drugs and therapeutics, scientists are worried about finding ever new ways to outpace infectious diseases.
    One exciting approach to address this problem is the use of predictive tissue culture models that can more accurately reflect how our own bodies respond to pathogens.” The new study appears in the journal npj Microgravity and was funded by NASA and NIH grants.

  11. Doc says:

    “People who take antibiotics for a long time are more likely to develop growths on the bowel which can be a precursor to cancer, a study suggests.” http://www.bbc.com/news/health-39495192 Writing in the journal Gut [ http://gut.bmj.com/ ] the authors of the study said “Antibiotics fundamentally alter the gut microbiome, by curbing the diversity and number of bacteria, and reducing the resistance to hostile bugs. This might all have a crucial role in the development of bowel cancer, added to which the bugs that require antibiotics may induce inflammation, which is a known risk for the development of bowel cancer.” They added: “The findings if confirmed by other studies, suggest the potential need to limit the use of antibiotics and sources of inflammation that may drive tumor formation.”

  12. Newbie says:

    “Undeveloped microbiomes make infants more prone to illness : Undeveloped immune systems are not the only culprit in infants’ susceptibility.” https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/04/undeveloped-microbiomes-make-infants-more-prone-to-illness/ See also “Neonatal acquisition of Clostridia species protects against colonization by bacterial pathogens” (Science, 4/21/17) http://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6335/315
    “The human microbiota consists of the 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells harbored by each person, primarily bacteria in the gut; the human microbiome consists of the genes these cells harbor” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3426293/

  13. Cora Peterson says:

    Synthetic Biology: exploring the potential for using genetically engineered sensor bacteria to study gut microbiota pathways, and diagnose or treat associated diseases. http://www.genengnews.com/gen-exclusives/inflammation-sensing-gut-bacteria-brought-to-you-by-synthetic-biology/77900898 New research may eventually lead to orally ingestible bacteria for minimally invasive monitoring of gut health and disease—with the ultimate goal being the development of a home inflammation test. (podcast). See also http://msb.embopress.org/content/13/4/923

  14. Update says:

    Slowing down the aging process might be possible one day with supplements derived from gut bacteria. Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston have identified bacterial genes and compounds that extend the life of and also slow down the progression of tumors and the accumulation of amyloid-beta, a compound associated with Alzheimer’s disease, in the laboratory worm C. elegans. The study appears in the journal Cell. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-06/bcom-gbm061217.php

  15. Geezer says:

    Parkinson’s disease, which involves the malfunction and death of nerve cells in the brain, may originate in the gut, new research suggests, adding to a growing body of evidence supporting the idea. A new study shows that a protein in nerve cells that becomes corrupted and then forms clumps in the brains of people with Parkinson’s can also be found in cells that line the small intestine. The finding supports the idea that this protein first becomes altered in the gut and then travels to the brain, where it causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. https://www.livescience.com/59498-parkinsons-disease-may-begin-in-gut.html
    See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson%27s_disease

  16. Larraburu Bros says:

    “More Than Bread: Sourdough As a Window Into The Microbiome” (NPR 7/17/17) http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/07/17/536485684/more-than-bread-sourdough-as-a-window-into-the-microbiome “…food is an avenue for the larger goal of trying to better understand microbial ecosystems, or microbiomes, which are found everywhere, from your gut to the oceans. In recent years, scientists have learned that microbiomes have an outsize influence on nearly every aspect of the world, including health, agriculture and the environment. Imbalances in our gut microbiomes, for example, have been linked to a laundry list of health issues, including obesity, colon cancer and autism. Last year, then-President Barack Obama launched the National Microbiome Initiative, a half-billion-dollar plan to study the microbiome.”

  17. Viscerous says:

    “Is The Secret To A Healthier Microbiome Hidden In The Hadza Diet?” (NPR) http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/08/24/545631521/is-the-secret-to-a-healthier-microbiome-hidden-in-the-hadza-diet (includes video: “The Invisible Universe Of The Human Microbiome”)
    “For the past few years, scientists around the world have been accumulating evidence that the Western lifestyle is altering our microbiome. Some species of bacteria are even disappearing to undetectable levels.
    “Over time we are losing valuable members of our community,” says Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford University, who has been studying the microbiome for more than a decade.
    Now Sonnenburg and his team have evidence for why this microbial die-off is happening and hints about what we can possibly do to reverse it.
    The study — published Thursday in the journal Science — focuses on a group of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, called Hadza.

  18. New deal says:

    “Your gut bacteria could determine how you respond to cutting-edge cancer drugs” (American Association for the Advancement of Science) http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/11/your-gut-bacteria-could-determine-how-you-respond-cutting-edge-cancer-drugs
    Reportedly the new studies have “tremendous implications.” For one, it appears simply avoiding antibiotics while taking PD-1 blockers could boost patient responses from the current 25% to 40%.
    Also: Overall survival (OS) in patients being treated with pembrolizumab, a programmed death-1 (PD-1) inhibitor, for metastatic non–small cell lung cancer (mNSCLC) that expressed high levels of the programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) protein was double that of patients who were treated with chemotherapy. See http://www.ajmc.com/newsroom/pd-1-inhibitor-doubled-survival-in-treatment-naive-patients-with-mnsclc
    “Incyte pays MacroGenics $150M for PD-1 inhibitor” http://www.fiercebiotech.com/biotech/incyte-pays-macrogenics-150m-for-pd-1-inhibitor To Incyte, the drug is worth $150 million upfront plus $750 million in milestones, split between $420 million in development and regulatory landmarks and $330 million in commercial targets. The deal leaves MacroGenics free to use MGA012 in its own combinations.

  19. Sotto Voce says:

    Social stress leads to changes in gut bacteria, study finds (Georgia State University) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-03/gsu-ssl030818.php “It has long been said that humans have “gut feelings” about things, but how the gut might communicate those “feelings” to the brain was not known. It has been shown that gut microbiota, the complex community of microorganisms that live in the digestive tracts of humans and other animals, can send signals to the brain and vice versa.” (link to source in sidebar)

  20. gut-instinct says:

    “A gut bacterium’s guide to building a microbiome : Unlike invading pathogens, which are attacked by the immune system, certain good bacteria in the gut invite an immune response in order to establish robust gut colonization.” (California Institute of Technology) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-05/ciot-agb050418.php New research from Caltech illustrates how a particular species of beneficial bacteria actually harnesses the body’s immune response so that it can settle down comfortably in the gut. A paper describing the research was published online on May 3 in the journal Science.

  21. Herky-jerky says:

    “The Frightening Link Between Beef Jerky and Bipolar Mania” (The Atlantic July 19, 2018) https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/07/the-frightening-link-between-beef-jerky-and-mania/565529/ “…The researchers don’t know exactly why the nitrates had this effect. Nitrates have antibacterial properties, and Yolken thinks the preservative might have been altering the microbiomes of the rats and the humans. In past research, he and his colleagues found that when people who were hospitalized for a manic episode were given probiotics, they were less likely to be rehospitalized in the next six months.
    It’s not totally clear how these microbiome changes affect the brain. According to the researchers, the bacteria might be sending signals through the vagus nerve, which connects the gut and brain. Or they could be releasing chemicals called butyrates that travel through the circulatory system to the brain, where they influence the production of mood-setting hormones called neurotransmitters.”
    Also: “So-called “nitrate-free” processed meats are often preserved with celery juice, a plant rich in nitrate. The source of nitrate added for meat preservation will likely not matter.” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2015/11/03/report-says-eating-processed-meat-is-carcinogenic-understanding-the-findings/

  22. Theodoric of York says:

    New trials of a breakthrough swallowable sensor have revealed the device is 3,000 times more accurate than current technology used to diagnose many gut disorders.
    The findings show the revolutionary gas-sensing capsule developed by researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, could surpass breath testing as the benchmark for diagnosing gut disorders, paving the way to solving previously undiagnosed conditions. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-08/ru-gsg072918.php

  23. Shazam says:

    “Gut bacteria’s shocking secret: They produce electricity : Hundreds of electricity-generating bacteria found, including pathogenic, probiotic and fermenting bacteria” (University of California – Berkeley 9/12/18) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-09/uoc–gbs091118.php “The fact that so many bugs that interact with humans, either as pathogens or in probiotics or in our microbiota or involved in fermentation of human products, are electrogenic — that had been missed before,” said Dan Portnoy, a UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology and of plant and microbial biology. “It could tell us a lot about how these bacteria infect us or help us have a healthy gut.”
    The discovery will be good news for those currently trying to create living batteries from microbes. Such “green” bioenergetic technologies could, for example, generate electricity from bacteria in waste treatment plants.
    The research will be posted online Sept. 12 in advance of Oct. 4 print publication in the journal Nature.

  24. Big C says:

    “Cancer hijacks the microbiome to glut itself on glucose” (University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus 9/28/18) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-09/uoca-cht092818.php “Cancer needs energy to drive its out-of-control growth. It gets energy in the form of glucose, in fact consuming so much glucose that one method for imaging cancer simply looks for areas of extreme glucose consumption – where there is consumption, there is cancer. But how does cancer get this glucose? A University of Colorado Cancer Center study published today in the journal Cancer Cell shows that leukemia undercuts the ability of normal cells to consume glucose, thus leaving more glucose available to feed its own growth.”

  25. Update says:

    “We’re still understanding the important and complex role that the microbiome plays in human health, though we do know that the trillions of bacteria in the human body influence our immune function and digestion. But beyond what we know, there’s simultaneously a fascinating field of research and a lot of hype and scaremongering.
    One thing we’re still working out is how antibiotics affect the gut microbiome and how well it’s able to recover after the treatment is finished. A paper in Nature Microbiology this week finds that, after a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics, 12 men were able to recover to a mostly normal microbiome level within six months. Nine species of gut dwellers, though, never reappeared; instead, there were some undesirable species of bacteria that managed to take hold.” (Ars Technica 10/28/18) https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/10/gut-bacteria-recover-from-antibiotics-but-they-may-take-six-months/

  26. Tsov tom says:

    “Immigrating To The U.S.? Get Ready For A New Gut Microbiome (And Maybe More Pounds).” NPR 11/1/18 https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/11/01/662652885/immigrating-to-the-u-s-get-ready-for-a-new-gut-microbiome-and-maybe-more-pounds
    “American diet changes gut bacteria of immigrants : University of Minnesota study of Southeast Asians could explain rising rates of obesity and related diseases.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune 11/1/18) http://www.startribune.com/american-diet-changes-gut-bacteria-of-immigrants/499358791/

  27. Puzzling Evidence™ says:

    “…the human body is occupied by large collections of microorganisms, commonly referred to as our microbiome, that have evolved with us since the early days of man. Scientists have only recently begun to quantify the microbiome, and discovered it is inhabited by at least 38 trillion bacteria. More intriguing, perhaps, is that bacteria are not the most abundant microbes that live in and on our bodies. That award goes to viruses.
    It has been estimated that there are over 380 trillion viruses inhabiting us, a community collectively known as the human virome. But these viruses are not the dangerous ones you commonly hear about, like those that cause the flu or the common cold, or more sinister infections like Ebola or dengue. Many of these viruses infect the bacteria that live inside you and are known as bacteriophages, or phages for short. The human body is a breeding ground for phages, and despite their abundance, we have very little insight into what all they or any of the other viruses in the body are doing.” https://www.zmescience.com/other/feature-post/virsues-in-virome-043/ “…there’s a war being fought on our body surfaces every minute of every day, and we haven’t a clue who’s winning or what the consequences of this war might be.”

  28. Brusha Brusha says:

    “Medieval dental plaque sheds light on how our microbiomes have changed” https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/11/medieval-dental-plaque-sheds-light-on-how-our-microbiomes-have-changed/ “The communities of bacteria that live in our mouths have changed drastically since the Middle Ages, according to a new study of remains buried in a medieval Danish cemetery. And it turns out that some people may have been more predisposed to tooth and gum disease than others, thanks in part to the bacterial communities that lived in their mouths.”

  29. Puzzling Evidence says:

    Gut bacteria may have impact on mental health, study says : Research opens door to possible treatments for depression based on probiotics (Guardian UK 2/4/19) https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/feb/04/gut-bacteria-mental-health-depression-study
    “The study reported in Nature Microbiology does not prove that gut microbes affect mental health. It is possible that the effect works the other way around, with a person’s mental health having an impact on the bugs that thrive inside them. But in follow-up experiments, Raes and his team found evidence that gut microbes can at least talk to the human nervous system by producing neurotransmitters that are crucial for good mental health.”
    See also “The neuroactive potential of the human gut microbiota in quality of life and depression” (Nature Microbiology) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-018-0337-x

  30. Update says:

    Research from NASA’s landmark Twins Study found that extended spaceflight affects the human gut microbiome. (Northwestern University 4/11/19 press release) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/nu-nts040819.php
    “During his yearlong stay on the International Space Station (ISS), astronaut Scott Kelly experienced a shift in the ratio of two major categories of bacteria in his gut microbiome. The diversity of bacteria in his microbiome, however, did not change during spaceflight, which the Northwestern University-led research team found encouraging.
    Gut health affects digestion, metabolism and immunity; and, more recently, changes in the microbiome have been linked to changes in bones, muscles and the brain.
    …Often called a “new organ system,” the gut’s microbiome is a complex community of microorganisms — including bacteria, viruses and fungi — that live in the digestive tract. Only within the past 10 years have researchers started to realize how the microbiome’s health and diversity affects the rest of the human body. Altering the microbiome can lead to alterations in the bone, muscle and brain.
    “The influence that bacteria have on all other systems of the body is really remarkable,” said Vitaterna, a research professor of neurobiology at Northwestern. “There are studies that link changes in the gut microbiome with neurological and physiological conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism and schizophrenia. By protecting the gut, we can protect all these other systems.”
    See also “The NASA Twins Study: A multidimensional analysis of a year-long human spaceflight” https://science.sciencemag.org/content/364/6436/eaau8650

  31. Victor Lindlahr says:

    Athens, Greece – 26 May 2019: Heart failure patients who consume more dietary fibre tend to have healthier gut bacteria, which is associated with reduced risk of death or need of a heart transplant. The fibre study was presented today at Heart Failure 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).1
    “Our gut microbiota is composed of trillions of microorganisms that have the potential to affect our health,” said study author Dr Cristiane Mayerhofer, of Oslo University Hospital, Norway. “Previous research has reported reduced biodiversity of microbes in the gut of patients with heart failure patients. Today we show for the first time that this is related to low fibre intake.”
    The study also linked meat intake to higher levels of trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO) in patients with heart failure. Prior research has shown that increased TMAO levels are associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular events, and that gut microbes play a role in its formation.
    “We show an important pathway that connects diet, microbial activity, and cardiovascular disease,” said Dr Mayerhofer. “It would be prudent for patients with heart failure to limit their meat intake to two to three times a week.” https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-05/esoc-agc052119.php

  32. Doc says:

    “New research shows Parkinson’s disease origins in the gut : Experiments in mice show transmission of nerve-killing protein from the gut into the brain” (Johns Hopkins Medicine 6/26/19) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-06/jhm-nrs061819.php
    In experiments in mice, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have found additional evidence that Parkinson’s disease originates among cells in the gut and travels up the body’s neurons to the brain. The study, described in the June issue of the journal Neuron, offers a new, more accurate model in which to test treatments that could prevent or halt Parkinson’s disease progression. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/newsroom/news-releases/new-animal-study-adds-to-evidence-of-parkinsons-disease-origins-in-the-gut
    Video: “New Animal Study Adds to Evidence of Parkinson’s Disease Origins in the Gut” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fknrce7Y14s

  33. Science be damned says:

    A multidisciplinary team at Lawson Health Research Institute Lawson in Canada is exploring whether fecal transplants can improve outcomes in melanoma patients treated with immunotherapy. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-08/lhri-cmi081619.php
    Immunotherapy drugs stimulate a person’s immune system to attack and destroy cancer. While they can significantly improve survival outcomes in those with melanoma, they are only effective in 40 to 50 per cent of patients. Preliminary research has suggested that the human microbiome – the diverse collection of microbes in our body – may play a role in whether or not a patient responds.
    “The gut microbiome helps establish immunity from an early age. It makes sense that a healthy gut could improve response to immunotherapy,” explains Dr. Jeremy Burton, a Lawson Scientist who specializes in human microbiome research. “This led us to consider the potential of fecal transplants.”

  34. Mike says:

    “Switch to Mediterranean diet boosts good bacteria, curbs harmful ones, even if you’ve been on a bad diet all your life” https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health-wellness/article/3051341/switch-mediterranean-diet-boosts-good-bacteria-curbs
    “An experiment in which a group of elderly subjects swapped a bland, restricted diet for a Mediterranean diet showed why it is beneficial – it changes the gut
    Production of microbes linked to better brain function rises, while that of microbes linked to increased frailty falls”
    See also “Mediterranean diet scores another win for longevity by improving microbiome” https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/17/health/mediterranean-diet-microbiome-wellness/index.html and “High-level adherence to a Mediterranean diet beneficially impacts the gut microbiota and associated metabolome” in the journal Gut

  35. Minority Report says:

    “New machine learning tool predicts devastating intestinal disease in premature infants : Researchers develop new machine learning approach that shows promise in predicting necrotizing enterocolitis; could lead to improved medical decision-making in neonatal ICUs”
    (Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-08/cuso-nml081020.php
    “…Since human microbiomes are subject to change, the MIL methods address the sequential aspect of the problem. For example, in the first 20 days after an infant is born, the infant’s microbiome goes through a drastic change. Many studies have shown that infants with a higher diversity of microbiome typically are healthier.
    “This led us to think that changes in microbiome diversity can help to explain why some infants are more likely to be sick from NEC,” said Adam (Yun Chao) Lin, a computer science MS student and co-author of the study whose work on this project prompted him to now pursue a PhD.
    Instead of viewing microbiome samples from an infant as independent, the team represented each patient as a collection of samples and applied attention mechanisms to learning the complex relationships among the samples. The machine learning algorithm “looks” at each bag and tries to guess from its contents whether or not the baby is affected.”
    The study is titled “Multiple instance learning for predicting necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants using microbiome data.” https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3368555.3384466

  36. FYI says:

    Microbial growth dynamics and human disease https://science.sciencemag.org/content/349/6252/1058
    The gut microbiota at the intersection of diet and human health https://science.sciencemag.org/content/362/6416/776
    The gut microbiota in kidney disease https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6510/1426
    Messengers from the microbiota https://science.sciencemag.org/content/369/6510/1427
    Cancer and the gut microbiota: An unexpected link https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/7/271/271ps1

  37. Doc says:

    Intestinal bacteria may affect severity of COVID-19, researchers find https://nypost.com/2021/01/12/intestinal-bacteria-may-affect-severity-of-covid-19-study/
    “Gut microbiome composition was significantly altered in patients with COVID-19 compared with non-COVID-19 individuals irrespective of whether patients had received medication,” they wrote in the British Medical Journal’s publication Gut.
    “Based on several patients surveyed in this study for up to 30 days after clearing SARS-CoV-2, the gut microbiota is likely to remain significantly altered after recovery from COVID-19,” they said.”
    BMJ: “Gut microbiota composition reflects disease severity and dysfunctional immune responses in patients with COVID-19” https://gut.bmj.com/content/early/2021/01/04/gutjnl-2020-323020.full

  38. Wonmug says:

    “Biologist Marco Candela and his colleagues recently sequenced ancient microbial DNA from 50,000-year-old Neanderthal feces found at the El Salt archaeological site in Spain. The sequences included DNA from several of the microbes that still call our intestines home, as well as a few that have nearly vanished from today’s urban dwellers. According to Candela and his colleagues, their results suggest that the microscopic population of our guts may have been with us since at least 500,000 years ago, in the era of our species’ last common ancestor with Neanderthals.” https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/02/oldest-dna-from-poop-contains-a-neanderthals-microbiome/

  39. Update says:

    Eran Blacher is the 2021 winner of the NOSTER & Science Microbiome Prize for his work in exploring the relationship between the microbiome and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). The findings reveal new insights into the “gut-brain axis” and demonstrate that harnessing the microbiome and their associated metabolic pathways could provide a useful approach to treating these and potentially other devastating neurological disorders. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-07/aaft-pwu070221.php
    Noster was incorporated on May 15, 2020, in Kyoto, Japan, specializing in the research and development of gut microbiome-based treatments with the vision of “connecting life and gut microbiome.” The company’s mission is to elucidate the functions of over 1,000 species of human gut microorganisms–numbering over 100 trillion–that exist symbiotically with humans, and to contribute to scientific advances in microbiotics to improve the health of people worldwide. Recent research shows that immune and digestive diseases as well as certain cancers are linked to the gut microbiome, making it an obvious target for the development of new biotherapy treatments based on manipulating the abundance and biology of gut microorganisms. To solidify its future, Noster is exploiting its deep understanding of the gut microbiome by building a unique library of intestinal microbes and their metabolites, referred to as “postbiotics.” Using this library, company scientists are working passionately to realize breakthroughs in drug discovery and to develop innovative therapeutic treatments targeting the gut microbiome. https://www.noster.inc/

  40. Gut check says:

    “Scientists have known for the past two decades that the metropolis home to trillions of bacteria in your belly — the gut microbiome — is also central to mental health, the immune system, and more.
    One of the latest studies in gut health scrutinizes how our microbiome affects aging in mice, using a surprising transplant.
    The research, published Monday in the journal Nature Aging, reveals that older mice who have received gut microbiota transplants from young mice show improved brain function and behavior. This mouse model offers powerful insight into how diet and what populates our stomachs affect what our brains look like in old age.” https://www.inverse.com/science/gut-aging
    “Microbiota from young mice counteracts selective age-associated behavioral deficits” https://www.nature.com/articles/s43587-021-00093-9

  41. p/s says:

    “A new Dartmouth-led study published in Pediatric Research has found a direct and sex-specific association between the composition of infant microbiome and early childhood behavioral health.
    Previous studies have established a link between the gut microbiome—the overall communities of microbes that colonize the intestinal tract and play an important role in immune system development and health outcomes—and behaviors like depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. But until now, there has been little to no human data from which to characterize the role of the microbiome during infancy in relation to these outcomes in children, and how they may differ in boys and girls.” https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/933862

  42. Causality says:

    Autism affects the microbiome, not the other way around : Microbiome composition is associated with dietary choices, not a diagnosis of autism. https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/11/autism-affects-the-microbiome-not-the-other-way-around/
    An altered microbiome has been associated with—and thereby either implicitly or explicitly implicated as a partial cause of—a wide range of human maladies. These include immune disorders like celiac disease, asthma, and diabetes; obesity; cancers; psychiatric disorders like depression and Alzheimer’s disease; and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
    …this study concludes that kids with ASD have reduced dietary diversity because of their behaviors, and this alters the taxonomic composition of their microbiome. The authors do note, however, that it remains possible that the microbiome can then influence the kids’ behavior in a feedback loop.
    ASD is a very complex condition with very complex etiologies. The authors note that, based on studies with mice, there are already clinical trials that aim to treat ASD by targeting the microbiome. But they suggest that working to diversify the kids’ diets may be a better course of action, as that could impact their behaviors, their microbiomes, and their overall health—although it’s not necessarily an easy path for parents and caregivers.
    In any case, they caution that we might want to flip our thinking in terms of how the microbiome relates to other psychiatric conditions. Rather than assuming that the microbiome affects behavior, it may be the case that behavior—i.e. diet—affects the microbiome.

  43. Raquel says:

    Scientists map entire human gut at single cell resolution : University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill scientists sequenced the genes expressed in individual single cells from human GI tracts to discover new cell-type characteristics and gain insights into important cell functions such as nutrient absorption and immune defense (Peer-Reviewed Publication) https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/944028
    This work, published in Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology, opens the door to exploring the many facets of gut health in a much more precise manner at greater resolution than ever before. See https://www.cmghjournal.org/article/S2352-345X(22)00034-0/fulltext

  44. Science be damned says:

    Healthy adults who eat a diverse diet with at least 8-10 grams of soluble fiber a day have fewer antibiotic-resistant microbes in their guts, according to a study published by Agricultural Research Service scientists and their colleagues in mBio https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/952103
    Antimicrobial resistance in people is largely based in their gut microbiome, where the microbes are known to carry genetically encoded strategies to survive contact with antibiotics.
    “And the results lead directly to the idea that modifying the diet has the potential to be a new weapon in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. And we’re not talking about eating some exotic diet either, but a diverse diet, adequate in fiber, that some Americans already eat,” explained research molecular biologist Danielle Lemay with the ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, California, and leader of the study.
    Soluble fiber, as its name suggests, dissolves in water and is the main type of fiber found in grains like barley and oats; legumes like beans, lentils and peas, seeds (like chia seeds) and nuts; and some fruits and vegetables like carrots, berries, artichokes, broccoli and winter squash.
    The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency.

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