Gut microbiome able to ‘pass on’ disease, study suggests

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Around two per cent of a person's body weight is linked to bacteria, the researchers said. (©
Around two per cent of a person's body weight is linked to bacteria, the researchers said. (©

Related tags Bacteria

Gut bacteria implicated in the onset of obesity are able to survive outside the human body, raising suggestions this bacteria could be transferred from person to person, a study has suggested.

The study’s authors think that ingesting these bacteria might be enough to cause a disturbance to the gut’s delicate microbiome.

This could also allow other conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome to develop.               

Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK focused on the bacteria that were able to form spores in the gut.

Spore formation in bacteria is a method of surviving unfavourable conditions.

They found that around one third of a healthy person’s gut microbiota produced spores that could survive outside the host and could well be transferred between human to human.

Microbial transmission via this route raises the possibility that certain bacteria implicated in diseases could be passed, not only genetically but via the microbiome.

Dark matter

“Being able to cast light on this microbial 'Dark matter' has implications for the whole of biology and how we consider health,”​ said Dr Trevor Lawley, group leader at the Sanger Institute.

“We will be able to isolate the microbes from people with a specific disease, such as infection, cancers or autoimmune diseases, and study these microbes in a mouse model to see what happens.“

Source: Nature

Published online ahead of print, DOI: 10.1038/nature17645

“Culturing of ‘unculturable’ human microbiota reveals novel taxa and extensive sporulation.”

Authors: Hilary Browne, Samuel Forster, Blessing Anonye, Nitin Kumar, B. Anne Neville, Mark Stares, David Goulding & Trevor Lawley

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