NOV 13, 2018 9:20 PM PST

Poop Preservation: A Call to Retain Microbial Diversity

The post-industrialized world may have increased our standard of living, but a new study suggests that it may have also adversely affected the microbes that support our health. By abandoning an agricultural society dependent on human labor in favor of manufacturing and technology, we have increased our access to supplies and time and improved our standard of living. But with these benefits have also come an increase in metabolic, immune, and cognitive diseases. Developed countries have seen a dramatic rise in obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and autism (1). Alarmingly, these diseases are also on the rise in developing countries. What is behind this increase in disease? Dominguez-Bello et al proposes that decreases in our microbial diversity are responsible for the increase in disease prevalence.

“We believe that changes in the human microbiota occurring concomitantly with industrialization may be the underlying factor. The changes involve the loss of our ancestral microbial heritage to which we were exposed through millions of years of evolution.”

Human microbiota refers to the collection of bacteria, archaea and eukarya colonizing the gastrointestinal tract (2). Our microbiota has co-evolved with us over thousands of years to form an intricate and mutually beneficial relationship. It has been estimated that we host close to an equal number of bacteria as we have human cells and one of the most densely populated tissues is our gut (3).

Colon (mouse) with gut bacteria in green. Credit: S. Melanie Lee, Caltech; Zbigniew Mikulski and Klaus Ley, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology

The Dominguez-Bello group characterized the microbiome of members of the Yanomami population, a hunter-gatherer society living in the Amazon. They found that their gut bacteria was twice as diverse compared to that of healthy people in the United States (4). Medicine, antibiotics, and a refined diet are among the microbial disruptors enabled by industrialization.

“Industrialization encompasses many influences on the microbiota, including a highly processed water supply, refined diets, and altered environmental exposure—which may affect the microbiota through effects on the immune system—and the presence of medical care, including pre-, peri-, and postnatal antibiotics; cesarean section delivery; and bottle-feeding—all of which reduce the transmitted and maintained microbial diversity, especially during the critical window of early-life development.”

So our microbiome is less diverse than our ancestors and we are only beginning to discover how specific microbes interact with and affect our bodies. It’s possible that some day in the future we could be prescribed a specific microbe as part of our treatment for disease. In the meantime, we need a global repository of human-associated microbes, especially those present in individuals from isolated traditional societies. If key parts of our microbiota go extinct, we may be next.

Check out the video to learn more about the microbiota.

 

Sources: 1) Science; 2) Biochemical Journal; 3) PLOS; 4) Science Advances

About the Author
  • Aleishia is a freelance medical/science writer that specializes in research-oriented content. Contact her for work.
You May Also Like
MAR 17, 2020
Immunology
MAR 17, 2020
What's the deal with SARS-CoV-2's spike protein?
Structurally, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) are spherical shells consisting of a lipid membrane, with a core containing the virus’ gene...
MAR 24, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
MAR 24, 2020
How Will the Coronavirus Change Drug Development?
Cataclysmic bombshells to society- be they actual bombshells by means of war, or metaphorical ones by natural catastrophe or financial collapse, tend to la...
MAR 23, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
MAR 23, 2020
Is it possible to degrade PFASs?
Have you ever heard of PFASs? Also known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, these synthetic chemicals built of carbon and fluorine atoms have the most...
MAR 27, 2020
Health & Medicine
MAR 27, 2020
Possible Link Between Marijuana Use and Heart Health
Research presented in a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that 2.3% of reported cannabis users have...
APR 03, 2020
Health & Medicine
APR 03, 2020
Cannabis Could Have Adverse Effects on Fertility
New research proves that female eggs exposed to THC may affect their ability to produce embryos that will result in a viable pregnancy. Photo Source: Pixab...
APR 05, 2020
Cardiology
APR 05, 2020
Fatter Thighs May Help Stave off Heart Disease
New research has found that a larger thigh circumferences, or ‘fatter thighs’ may be linked to lower blood pressure, and thus a reduced chance ...
Loading Comments...