05 May 11 Three gut microbe populations identified
Much like blood type classifications, an international research consortium has discovered there are three types of gut-microbe populations that exist independent of race, country of origin, diet, age or state of health, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. The findings may help to explain and eventually treat a range of diseases including diabetes, intestinal cancer and Crohn’s disease.
About 1 000 different species of bacteria live in the intestines and aid in the digestion of food and support immune function. Researchers found a person’s gut type might help to determine whether people can eat all they like and stay slim, whether they will experience more gut pain than others when sick and how well they can metabolize a certain drug.
The researchers said it is unclear whether a person’s gut type might change over time, either naturally or in response to something such as a steady diet of probiotic yoghurt.
For the study, the researchers used genetic screening to identify the microbes present in fecal samples from 22 Europeans enrolled in other gut-microbe studies, and compared the results with samples from 17 people in the United States and Japan. When they looked to see how similar the samples were, the researchers found that they clustered neatly into three groups.
The team has named the clusters after the dominant genus — Bacteroides, Prevotella and Ruminococcus. Bacteroides are known to be good at breaking down carbohydrates, so it is possible that people of this type might, for example, struggle more with obesity, they said. Prevotella tend to degrade slimy mucus in the gut, which could conceivably increase gut pain. Some Ruminococcus help cells to absorb sugars, which might contribute to weight gain.
“The discovery of enterotypes is expected to influence future research within a number of fields,” said the researchers. “Our results show that we may have uncovered a new ‘biological fingerprint’ on the same level as blood types and tissue types. The three enterotypes occur across nationalities and are independent of gender and age. Every enterotype has a certain composition of bacteria that have specific functions, for example energy production from degradation of dietary fibres or formation of certain vitamins. This may potentially affect a number of biological functions — discoveries which at a later stage may be translated into individual diet advice or design of drugs that are adapted to the individual enterotype.”
Source: University of Copenhagen: What’s your intestinal bacteria type?