FEB 10, 2019 4:01 AM PST

Researchers Sequence 100 New Gut Microbes, Advancing Microbiome Research

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

We all carry around a massive community of microbes in our gastrointestinal tracts, which help us digest food and absorb nutrients. Called the gut microbiome, those microbes can have a powerful effect on human health (as explained in the video). Scientists naturally want to know more about all of the different species of microorganisms in that microbiome. Characterizing them will allow us to find the ones that contribute to disease or others that have therapeutic potential, for example. But to do so, researchers need a reference point.

Now scientists from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, Hudson Institute of Medical Research, and the European Bioinformatics Institute at EMBL have described 100 new bacterial species that live in the human gut. Their work, which has been reported in Nature Biotechnology, will help researchers quickly identify the microbes that are in any sample they might be analyzing. They can then make connections between various health conditions and specific gut bacteria.

"For researchers trying to find out which species of bacteria are present in a person's microbiome, the database of reference genomes from pure isolates of gut bacteria is crucial. Then if they want to test a hypothesis, for example, that a particular species is enriched in a certain disease, they can get the isolate itself from the collection and physically test in the laboratory if this species seems to be important,” explained study author Dr. Rob Finn of EMBL's European Bioinformatics Institute.

Gut microbes are adapted to live in a special environment, making them very difficult to grow in the laboratory. While we know that many of these microbes have an influential role in disorders like obesity, irritable bowel syndrome and allergies, we don’t know much about them

In this work, the researchers were able to successfully grow 737 individual strains of bacteria and sequence their genomes. Of those, 173 had never been sequenced, and of that group, 105 had never been isolated. They were able to do so after collecting fecal samples from only 20 donors.

"This study has led to the creation of the largest and most comprehensive public database of human health-associated intestinal bacteria. The gut microbiome plays a major [role] in health and disease. This important resource will fundamentally change the way researchers study the microbiome,” said the first author of the report Dr. Samuel Forster of the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Hudson Institute of Medical Research.

Most human fecal samples contain a huge mixture of microbial species, and they can be challenging to analyze without reference genomes that can identify the microbes. This work will change that.

"This culture collection of individual bacteria will be a game-changer for basic and translational microbiome research. By culturing the unculturable, we have created a resource that will make microbiome analysis faster, cheaper and more accurate and will allow further study of their biology and functions. Ultimately, this will lead us towards developing new diagnostics and treatments for diseases such as gastrointestinal disorders, infections, and immune conditions,” said the senior author of the report Dr. Trevor Lawley of the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

In the video above, Lawley explains why some bacteria is good for us.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Nature Biotechnology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
MAY 09, 2021
Microbiology
Bacteria Can Read Genes Forwards or Backwards
MAY 09, 2021
Bacteria Can Read Genes Forwards or Backwards
One of the most basic processes in life in the creation of proteins from mRNA molecules, which are transcribed from DNA. ...
MAY 13, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
The Unique Caecilians of São Tomé Island
MAY 13, 2021
The Unique Caecilians of São Tomé Island
There are many islands that have unique flora and fauna, like these limbless creatures (Photo © Andrew Stanbridge) of Sã ...
MAY 25, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Mitochondrial Dysfunction May Raise Schizophrenia Risk in 22q Patients
MAY 25, 2021
Mitochondrial Dysfunction May Raise Schizophrenia Risk in 22q Patients
A disorder called 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q) affects about one in 2,000 births, and causes dysfunction in every org ...
JUN 18, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
How DNA Has Told Stories of Human History
JUN 18, 2021
How DNA Has Told Stories of Human History
Archeological digs have told us a lot about human history, but genetic tools have been able to fill in some of the gaps ...
JUN 21, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Scientists Create Viral Vectors That Can Be Activated With Light
JUN 21, 2021
Scientists Create Viral Vectors That Can Be Activated With Light
Most people think of viruses as nasty pathogens that can infect cells. Though it's taken time and testing, researche ...
JUL 12, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Vision of Retinitis Pigmentosa Patient Partially Restored by New Therapy
JUL 12, 2021
Vision of Retinitis Pigmentosa Patient Partially Restored by New Therapy
Scientists have been developing gene therapies that can help restore vision that's lost due to a problem with a gene ...
Loading Comments...