Scientists Sort Gut Microbes Into Just Three Types

According to the Los Angeles Times, when researchers set out to catalog the hundreds of species of microbes in the human gut, by using gene sequencing, they expected to find a larger number of different possible combination of bacteria.Instead, they found just three.  Gut bacteria seem to cluster into three distinct and stable combinations that show up across populations from a variety of backgrounds.

The results were “a big surprise…we expected more variation,” said Peer Pork, bioinformatics expert at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany.

In the study, researchers extracted DNA from the stool samples of 22 European individuals, and then attempted to determine the composition of it.  They used computers to sort the gene fragments of the bacteria and match them to the DNA of known organisms.  Then, they compared their results to published studies from Japanese and American subjects.

The researchers hope their findings may have implications for medicine in the future.  Hopefully, the discovery of the three ‘enterotypes’ can provide insight into certain diseases or characteristics.

Bacteria are a vital part of the human digestive system.  They help the body process food and acquire nutrients and vitamins.  Certain studies indicate there may be links between gut microbes and diseases such as as obesity, cancer and peptic ulcers.

Knowing a person’s enterotype may be useful for treating illness or prescribing more effective medications  in the future, Bork said.

The results were published in the journal Nature.

Click here to read more from the LA Times.