Sunday 4 June 2023

Why do some age better than others? The role of the intestinal microbiome is a factor


Some people turn 100 years old, and sometimes in reasonable health. Why is this? Scientists based at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Centre for Protein Research at the University of Copenhagen have looked at the intestinal microbiota of the human gut for an answer.


By studying 176 healthy Japanese centenarians, the researchers learned that the combination of intestinal bacteria and bacterial viruses of these people is quite unique. It has been shown how the intestinal bacteria of old Japanese citizens produce brand new molecules that make them resistant to pathogenic microorganisms. With their intestines are better protected against infection, this is one of the things that triggers people to live longer than others.


The researchers found great biological diversity in both bacteria and bacterial viruses in the centenarians. In general, a high microbial diversity is usually associated with a healthy gut microbiome. 



Once scientists know what the intestinal microbiota of centenarians looks like, they can develop a closer to understanding to health and disease. A significant step forwards has occurred by using an algorithm that has mapped the intestinal bacteria and bacterial viruses of the 176 centenarians.


What will be important for further study are the dynamics of the intestinal flora. How do the different kinds of bacteria and viruses interact? How can scientists engineer a microbiome that can help people to live healthy, long lives? Are some bacteria better than others?


Interestingly, the viruses we found in the healthy Japanese centenarians contained extra genes that could boost bacteria. Furthermore, by boosting the transformation of specific molecules in the intestines, this might serve to stabilise the intestinal flora and counteract inflammation.




Joachim Johansen, Koji Atarashi, Yasumichi Arai, Nobuyoshi Hirose, et al. Centenarians have a diverse gut virome with the potential to modulate metabolism and promote healthy lifespan. Nature Microbiology, 2023; DOI: 10.1038/s41564-023-01370-6


Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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