APR 17, 2015 01:50 PM PDT

Western guts have lower bacterial diversity

People living in Papua New Guinea have a greater diversity of gut bacteria than those living in the USOur western lifestyle, hygiene and diet may reduce the diversity of important gut bacteria, a new study shows.

Scientists analysed the faecal bacteria of people living in the United States and rural Papua New Guinea, and found that Papua New Guineans had a greater number of different gut bacterial species.

The study, published today in Cell Reports , shows while both groups still had many important gut bacteria species in common, the US residents were missing around 50 bacterial types that were dominant in the rural Papua New Guineans.

There has been growing interest in recent years about the impact of gut bacterial populations -- known as the gut microbiome -- on health.

Research is suggesting that changes observed in the gut microbiome of western populations may be contributing to the rise in diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, allergies, and colon cancer.

Co-author Dr Andrew Greenhill, senior lecturer in microbiology at Federation University, says the study showed most of the lost diversity was in the bacterial 'fringe dwellers'.

"These make up somewhere between 5-10 per cent of the total number of bacteria in the gut," says Greenhill.

"Perhaps the [loss of] the organisms that lead to increased diversity in traditional lifestyles, may have some health impact."

While the spread of bacteria from person to person -- aided by a lack of sewage, waste water or drinking water treatment -- is likely the main reason for the greater bacterial diversity in the Papua New Guinean residents, diet also plays a role in altering our gut microbiome.

"Other studies show that if you introduce whole grains back into the diet of western people, you see an increase in the diversification of their gut microbiota," Greenhill says.

Greenhill says the high proportion of protein relative to carbohydrates, in the western diet also probably has an impact on the composition of the gut community structure.

Similarly, increased rates of caesarean sections may also be impacting.

"It's no accident, and is probably better design than what it initially looks, that the birth canal is so close to the end of the gastrointestinal tract," Greenhill says.

But it's not all bad news for the Western gut. While we may have less biodiversity, improved hygiene practices mean we also have a lower incidence of the sort of gastrointestinal infectious diseases that regularly sweep through low-income communities such as those in rural Papua New Guinea.

"We're not saying that we should throw away our toilets and stop washing our hands," Greenhill says.

What is required is more research on how these bacterial species affect health, and how this can be used to benefit populations in non-industrialised and industrialised nations, he says.

"If there's evidence that they are actually contributing to lifestyle diseases, it would come to finding ways of getting them back into the industrialised gut microbiota, but without reducing the benefits that have come from reduced dispersal [which] is primarily due to improved sanitation and hygiene."

(Source: abc.net.au)
About the Author
You May Also Like
OCT 22, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 22, 2019
Revealing Protein Interactions by Studying the Genome
Having an understanding of biology requires revealing the relationships and interactions between proteins....
OCT 22, 2019
OCT 22, 2019
Lab Mice Born to Moms From the Wild Make Better Research Models
A standard research mouse genotype was preserved while generating a natural microbiome by using wild mice as surrogates....
OCT 22, 2019
Earth & The Environment
OCT 22, 2019
What role does a light-capturing marine microbe play in climate regulation?
A USC-led research team discovered the unique role that a light-capturing marine microbe plays in regulating Earth’s climate. The team consisted of s...
OCT 22, 2019
OCT 22, 2019
Colombia Declares a State of Emergency as Banana Fungus Reaches the Americas
Bananas: the world's most popular fruit, a major source of food for millions of people, and now, seriously threatened by fungus....
OCT 22, 2019
OCT 22, 2019
Using Peptides to Remodel the Microbiome
Now that we know so much more about the bacteria we carry in our bodies, it may be possible to start using that bacteria to improve our health....
OCT 22, 2019
OCT 22, 2019
Immune System Responsible for Organ Failure in Malaria
In the most severe cases of malaria, a person can experience organ failure and die. Often times, though, this is not directly due to the parasitic malaria ...
Loading Comments...