Dispatches from Microbiota 2011

Big future forecast for pre- and probiotics

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

The Boston-based Human Microbiome Project is three years into a five-year project that is throwing up revelations about how human microorganisms behave – and its leader predicts a big future for pre- and probiotics.

Speaking from the Microbiota conference in Paris this morning, Dr Dirk Gevers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Boston, Massachusetts, said the genetic approach was the only way to ‘see’ behavioural patterns among certain organisms.

“Many of the organisms that are in us are not necessarily cultural so these genetic approaches allow us to see all those organisms present,” ​Dr Gevers said.

“We are putting out this large body of data ... and the results, and I think one of the very surprising things there is that we are uniquely defining the variability amongst a large population (of 300 healthy subjects).”

Race, diet, genomics

The research has thrown interesting results such as the influence of race and diet on microbiomial activity in the body – at least in those in the US-based ethnic groups so-far researched.

“So figuring whether this is the minorities in the US eating differently, or this is host genetics or whatever other environmental component that can be linked with this race association will be very interesting to follow up on.”

Pre- and probiotic hope

Dr Gevers said the data was proving of interest to both the food and medical industries.

“There is more and more evidence that a switch in microbiome is associated with some kind of disease. We see that with IBD [irritable bowel disease], we see that in diabetes, in lean versus obese people…”

“I think the food is gonna be a key component. We know that prebiotics and probiotics have a good effect on people but understanding how we can optimise those and get to products that can target the microbiome; getting it in a healthy shape…I think that is going to be a big approach in attacking diseases.”

Pro- and prebiotics

The wider benefits of pre- and probiotics for health will be discussed in the upcoming free-to-attend virtual event Pre -& Probiotics. Topics to be discussed by world-leading experts in this field include benefits beyond the gut, new prebiotic forms, and the influence of health claims on the market. For more information and to register, please click here​.

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