Saturday, 28 December 2019

Lifestyle is a threat to gut bacteria


The evolution of dietary and hygienic habits in Western countries is associated with a decrease in the bacteria that help in digestion. These very bacteria were also found in the Iceman, who lived 5300 years ago, and are still present in non-Westernized populations in various parts of the world. The depletion of the microbiome may be associated with the increased prevalence, in Western countries, of complex conditions like allergies, autoimmune and gastrointestinal diseases, obesity.

The industrialization process in Western countries had a huge impact on its content. This was confirmed by a study on the bacteria found in the intestine of Ötzi, the Iceman who, in 1991, emerged from the ice of the Ötztal Alps, where Italy borders with Austria. Scientists of Eurac Research examined samples of the mummy's bacteria, confirming the findings of the researchers of the University of Trento who had analyzed the genome of intestinal microorganisms of over 6500 individuals from all continents.

Previous studies by the University of Trento had demonstrated that there is a connection between the microbiome's bacterial content and the increase, in Western countries, of obesity, autoimmune and gastrointestinal diseases, allergies and other complex conditions. In the study that appeared today in Cell Host & Microbe, researchers from Cibio of the University of Trento and Eurac in Bolzano/Bozen demonstrated that the differences between Western and non-Western or prehistoric microbiome lie in the decrease of some types of bacteria that process complex and vegetal fibers in the intestine.

That may have been caused by the Westernization process. Changes in diet, which is now higher in fat and low in fibers, a sedentary lifestyle in an urban setting, the development of new hygiene habits and the widespread use of antibiotics and other medical products have, with no doubt, made our life safer, but impacted the delicate balance of our microbiome.

The study focused, in particular, on Prevotella copri, a microbe that, when is found in our intestine, is usually the most represented. P. copri is present in 30% of Western individuals.

See:


Adrian Tett, Kun D. Huang, Francesco Asnicar, et al. The Prevotella copri Complex Comprises Four Distinct Clades Underrepresented in Westernized Populations. Cell Host & Microbe, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.chom.2019.08.018

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology

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