The human microbiome, which consists of the trillions of microorganisms that reside in our bodies, has become an area of growing interest to the medical community as researchers have begun to probe the role it plays in human health and disease, said the team behind the research.
While most bugs in our microbiome are harmless, and may even be beneficial, changes in the microbiome make up - and in the interactions microbial species share with their human hosts - have been linked to various disease states, including diabetes and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
The new research, published in Cell, Host & Microbe, is the largest longitudinal study of the microbiome to date and has identified a connection between changes in gut microbiota and the onset of type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Led by Professor Ramnik Xavier from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the team suggested that their findings could help pave the way for microbial-based diagnostic and therapeutic options for those with T1D.
"We know from previous human studies that changes in gut bacterial composition correlate with the early development of type 1 diabetes, and that the interactions between bacterial networks may be a contributing factor in why some people at risk for the disease develop type 1 diabetes and others don't," commented Jessica Dunne, director of Discovery Research at JDRF, a UK-based charity that funded the research. "This is the first study to show how specific changes in the microbiome are affecting the progression to symptomatic T1D."
"This study is unique because we have taken a cohort of children at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes and then followed what changes in the microbiome tip the balance toward progression to the disease," said Xavier.
Aleksandar Kostic, first author of the study, agreed, adding that it is "a compelling piece of evidence pointing toward a direct role of the microbiome in type 1 diabetes."