The Latest Research on the Human Microbiome

virusHave you kept up-to-date with the latest research on the human microbiome? If not, here’s your chance to catch up. As always, I’ve picked out a selection of scientific papers and articles that I found interesting and think the readers of Darwinian-Medicine.com will enjoy. Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section if you have any opinions or questions related to the information in today’s post or if you’ve come across interesting new research that you think deserves to be mentioned. 

The microbiome in health and disease

Targeting gut bacteria to reduce weight gain

A new therapy that involves engineered gut bacteria may one day help reduce the health problems that come with obesity. Incorporating the engineered bacteria into the guts of mice both kept them from gaining weight and protected them against some of the negative health effects of obesity. Researchers will present their findings today at the American Physiological Society’s Inflammation, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease conference. Read more…

Shifts in the microbiome impact tissue repair, regeneration

Researchers at the Stowers Institute have established a definitive link between the makeup of the microbiome, the host immune response, and an organism’s ability to heal itself.

They showed that a dramatic shift in the microbial community of planaria robs the freshwater flatworm of its superior regenerative abilities. This same shift has been observed in human inflammatory disorders, though previous attempts to mimic it in lower organisms like fruit flies or zebrafish have proved unsuccessful. Read more…

Gut Bacteria’s Vital Role in Prefrontal Cortex, Brain’s White Matter

Researchers have shown for the first time, in mice, that naturally occurring gut bacteria are vital in the process that leads to proper development of the prefrontal cortex. The PFC is a major brain region that is the seat of cognition. Its function is impaired in some psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, including schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Read more…

Scientists unpack how Toxoplasma infection is linked to neurodegenerative disease

Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite, infects a third of the world’s population. Working on mice, biomedical scientists report that Toxoplasma infection leads to a disruption of neurotransmitters in the brain and postulates that it triggers neurological disease in those already predisposed to such a disease. The researchers note that Toxoplasma infection leads to a significant increase in glutamate — the primary and most important neurotransmitter in the brain. Read more…

Chronic fatigue syndrome is in your gut, not your head

Physicians have been mystified by chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition where normal exertion leads to debilitating fatigue that isn’t alleviated by rest. There are no known triggers, and diagnosis requires lengthy tests administered by an expert. Now, for the first time, researchers report they have identified biological markers of the disease in gut bacteria and inflammatory microbial agents in the blood. Read more…

Bacteria can multiply disease-inducing genes to rapidly cause infection

More than 22 years ago, researchers discovered an infection strategy of human pathogenic Yersinia bacteria — a protein structure in bacterial cell-walls that resembled a syringe. The structure, named “Type III secretion system” or T3SS, makes it possible to transfer bacterial proteins into the host cell and destroy its metabolism. After the discovery, researchers have found T3SS in several other bacteria species and T3SS has proven to be a common infection mechanism that pathogens, i.e. an infectious agent such as a virus or bacterium, use to destroy host cells. Now researchers have found a link between infection and rapid production of the essential proteins needed to form “the poisonous syringe.” Read more…

Gut bacteria can cause, predict and prevent rheumatoid arthritis

The bacteria in your gut do more than break down your food. They also can predict susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis, suggests Veena Taneja, Ph.D., an immunologist at Mayo Clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine. Dr. Taneja recently published two studies — one in Genome Medicine and one in Arthritis and Rheumatology — connecting the dots between gut microbiota and rheumatoid arthritis. Read more…

Antibiotics Use Linked to Type 1 Diabetes in Mice: Study

The researchers found that in male mice, the higher antibiotic exposure early in life “accelerated the diabetes and even enhanced it,” Blaser says. About twice as many mice came down with diabetes than in the control group. They didn’t see this effect with the lower dose of antibiotics. Read more…

Uncovering the female body’s secret protection against HIV

The problem is that not every woman has a Lactobacillus-dominated microbiome. There are dozens of bacterial families that can occupy the vagina, and none are as good for HIV protection as Lactobacillus, at least as far as researchers know to date. Women without a Lactobacillus dominated microbiome are often said to have a bacterial imbalance called bacterial vaginosis (BV). For decades, researchers have known that HIV rates are higher in women with BV than women with Lactobacillus-dominant microbiomes. And for years, research has suggested that Lactobacillus is more common in white and Asian women’s microbiomes than in the microbiomes of Black and Latina women—women with far higher rates of HIV. Read more…

Changes uncovered in the gut bacteria of patients with multiple sclerosis

A connection between the bacteria living in the gut and immunological disorders such as multiple sclerosis have long been suspected, but for the first time, researchers have detected clear evidence of changes that tie the two together. Investigators have found that people with multiple sclerosis have different patterns of gut microorganisms than those of their healthy counterparts. In addition, patients receiving treatment for MS have different patterns than untreated patients. Read more…

The impact of diet and lifestyle on the human microbiome

The Human Microbiome as Road Kill in the Age of the Anthropocene

With the world entering a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – the idea that we now live in a very different world than the one our not-so-distant ancestors inhabited, has never been truer. But amidst global deforestation, melting ice sheets, and general biosphere degradation, perhaps the human microbiome – the collection of our microbiota and their genes – was an early, yet unrecognized, casualty. As a microbial canary in the coalmine, the modern human microbiome starts looking like a cog in the wheel of current ecological disasters when considered against the backdrop of our recent work among East African hunter-gatherers. Read more…

Mice fed more fiber have less severe food allergies

The development of food allergies in mice can be linked to what their gut bacteria are being fed, reports a new study. Rodents that received a diet with average calories, sugar, and fiber content had more severe peanut allergies than those that received a high-fiber diet. The researchers show that gut bacteria release a specific fatty acid in response to fiber intake, which eventually impacts allergic responses via changes to the immune system. Read more…

Butyrate production from high-fiber diet protects against lymphoma tumor.

Gut microbiota and dietary fiber are critical for protecting body from obesity, diabetes and cancer. Butyrate, produced in the gut by bacterial fermentation of dietary fibers, is demonstrated to be protective against the development of colorectal cancer as a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor. We report that high-fiber diet and butyrate significantly inhibited the growth lymphoma tumors. Butyrate induced apoptosis of lymphoma tumor cells and significantly up-regulated histone 3 acetylation (H3ac) level and target genes such as Fas, P21, P27. Our results unravel an instrumental role of fiber diet and their metabolites on lymphoma tumor and demonstrate an intervention potential on the prevention and therapy of lymphoma. Read more…

You Probably Don’t Need to Shower

As we learn more about the relationship between the microbiome and our health, some scientists and journalists have begun weaning themselves from cosmetic products like soap and shampoo. In taking away the bad bacteria, we could be losing too much of the good. Read more…

Let them eat dirt! Our obsession with hygiene is jeopardising our children’s health

But what if we could prevent early-onset health issues simply by making our kids roll around in the dirt? In her new book Healthy Food, Healthy Gut, Happy Child, Dr Maya Shetreat-Klein advocates a lifestyle centred around contact with the microbes present in soil. Read more…

Bisphenol A alters gut microbiome: Comparative metagenomics analysis.

Our results demonstrated a significant reduction of species diversity in the gut microbiota of BPA-fed mice. Alpha and beta diversity analyses showed that dietary BPA intake led to a similar gut microbial community structure as that induced by HFD and HSD in mice. In addition, comparative analysis of the microbial communities revealed that both BPA and a HFD favored the growth of Proteobacteria, a microbial marker of dysbiosis. Consistently, growth induction of the family Helicobacteraceae and reduction of the Firmicutes and Clostridia populations were observed in the mice fed BPA or a HFD. Collectively, our study highlighted that the effects of dietary BPA intake on the shift of microbial community structure were similar to those of a HFD and HSD, and revealed microbial markers for the development of diseases associated with an unstable microbiota. Read more…

Your soap and toothpaste could be messing with your microbiome

Antibacterial products are found in hospitals, personal products and at home. However, recent studies say they may do more harm than good. Read more…

Other topics

‘Bugs’ on the subway: Monitoring the microbial environment to improve public health

The trillions of microbes that transfer from people to surfaces could provide an early warning system for the emergence of public health threats such as a flu outbreak or a rise in antibiotic resistance, according to a new study. Read more…

Unraveling the food web in your gut

Despite recent progress, the organization and ecological properties of intestinal microbial ecosystem remain under investigated. Using a manually curated metabolic module framework for (meta-)genomic data analysis, researchers studied species-function relationships in gut microbial genomes and microbiomes. The Flemish Gut Flora Project observed that half of the bacteria in the human gut were metabolic generalists, while others were specializing and feeding on specific substrates. Read more…

War and peace in the human gut: Probing the microbiome

Human well being often flourishes under conditions of cooperation with others and flounders during periods of external conflict and strife.

According to Athena Aktipis, a researcher at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, microbes within the body–collectively known as the microbiota–also engage in cooperative and combative behavior with human cells in their environment. This is particularly true in the human gut, where many trillions of them exist in the digestive tract in communities of bewildering diversity. Read more…

‘Poop Transplant’ Changes Play Out Over Several Months, Study Finds

Patients who undergo a “poop transplant” to treat severe diarrhea often see their symptoms get better within days, but their gut bacteria continue to undergo dramatic changes for at least three months afterward, a new study finds. Read more…

A ‘slow catastrophe’ unfolds as the golden age of antibiotics comes to an end

In early April, experts at a military lab outside Washington intensified their search for evidence that a dangerous new biological threat had penetrated the nation’s borders.

They didn’t have to hunt long before they found it.

On May 18, a team working at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research here had its first look at a sample of the bacterium Escherichia coli, taken from a 49-year-old woman in Pennsylvania. She had a urinary tract infection with a disconcerting knack for surviving the assaults of antibiotic medications. Her sample was one of six from across the country delivered to the lab of microbiologist Patrick McGann.

Within hours, a preliminary analysis deepened concern at the lab. Over the next several days, more sophisticated genetic sleuthing confirmed McGann’s worst fears.

There, in the bacterium’s DNA, was a gene dubbed mcr-1. Its presence made the pathogen impervious to the venerable antibiotic colistin. Read more…

Food’s transit time through body is a key factor in digestive health

The time it takes for ingested food to travel through the human gut – also called transit time – affects the amount of harmful degradation products produced along the way. This means that transit time is a key factor in a healthy digestive system. This is the finding of a study from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, which has been published in the renowned journal Nature Microbiology. Read more…

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Comments

  1. As always, you’ve assembled an interesting collection of articles, Eirik.

    Regarding “You probably don’t need to shower”, I’ve gotten to where I use far less soap and hot water as I get older. Way too drying and irritating to the skin. I don’t mine coal for a living, so it’s rarely necessary to soap things like torso, arms, and legs on a daily basis. Usually I just rinse them and use soap only on my pits and private areas–which IS necessary for most of us. My skin is much happier since I’ve begun doing this. Alas, I do have to shampoo my hair every other day. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to go out in public. I’ve given up on trying to change that aspect of my body maintenance.

    As a side note on cleanliness, we bought a portable bidet a few years ago, and now I don’t know how I ever managed without it. Even the hubby loves it. Bidets that attach to the toilet under the seat are inexpensive and easy to install. I highly recommend them.

    Regarding “Let your kids eat dirt”… I did exactly that as a child. We lived on a corner with an unpaved side street. The street grader would come along and sprinkle the dirt about once a week. I can’t explain why, but the smell of that damp dirt always lured me into the street for a taste. I was even known to eat the dirt with a spoon, which upset my mother to no end. She thought I’d get sick and die, but I didn’t. Obviously my body was lacking something the dirt provided. I don’t eat dirt anymore, but I still like the aroma rising up from the ground after a rain..

    • Great insights, Shary.

      My experience is similar to yours – hot water and soap dry out and damage my skin. One of the main reasons I started taking cold showers.

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