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Understanding gastrointestinal bacteria

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A recently published study by an international team of researchers including Dr Andrew Greenhill from Federation University Australia has shed more light on the composition and diversity of bacterial communities residing in the gut of humans.

These bacteria, known as the gut microbiota, are important for health. However, it appears that modern lifestyle depletes the gut’s collection of microbes.

Numerous studies have shown people living in Western countries have a less diverse gut microbiota than people living a traditional lifestyle.

The study by Dr Greenhill, from the Gippsland Campus, and collaborators noted a similar difference in the gut microbiota of USA residents compared to people living in Papua New Guinea.

The majority of Papua New Guinean people live a traditional subsistence lifestyle, and have limited access to sanitation and hygiene.

Various mechanisms have been proposed to describe the decreased diversity in the gut microbiota of people living in industrialised countries, including diet and clinical practices such as antibiotic use and caesarean sections.

“The findings of this study suggest that western lifestyle may diminish the variety of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract by limiting their ability to be transmitted among humans,” Dr Greenhill said.

“The findings suggest that lifestyle practices that reduce bacterial dispersal, specifically sanitation and drinking water treatment, might be an important cause of microbiome alterations.”

However, the research team is quick to point out that the benefits derived from improved sanitation and hygiene greatly outweigh any negative impact such measures have on gut microbiota diversity.

“But by knowing what drives the changes in Western gut microbiota, we can look to ways of safely reintroducing these lost linages of bacteria should future studies warrant that,” Dr Greenhill said.

(Source: Federation University)

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Posted On: 31 May, 2015
Modified On: 29 May, 2015


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