Why are your gut microbes different from mine?

Merry

Well-Known Member
In an Atlantic article published yesterday, the 28th of April, Ed Yong discusses the findings of two large studies, one Dutch, the other Belgian, comparing the gut microbiomes of individuals. The Dutch study looked at stool samples of 1,135 people, the Belgian, 1,106.

Both looked at how hundreds of factors affect the microbiome, including age, height, weight, sleep, medical history, smoking, allergies, blood levels of various molecules, and a long list of foods. Both found dozens of factors that affect either the overall diversity of microbial species, or the abundance of particular ones. And encouragingly, their respective lists overlap considerably.

But here’s the important thing: Collectively, the factors they identified explain a tiny proportion of the variation between people’s microbiomes—19 percent in the Dutch study, and just 8 percent in the Belgian. Which means we’re still largely in the dark about what makes my microbiome different from yours, let alone whether one is healthier than the other.

“With all the knowledge we’ve gathered, we made the best possible effort to capture all the factors we could imagine, and we could only explain 8 percent of the total variation,” says Jeroen Raes from the University of Leuven, who led the Belgian study. “It’s very humbling.”
http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/04/why-are-your-gut-microbes-different-from-mine/480207/
 

Cort

Founder of Health Rising and Phoenix Rising
Staff member
In an Atlantic article published yesterday, the 28th of April, Ed Yong discusses the findings of two large studies, one Dutch, the other Belgian, comparing the gut microbiomes of individuals. The Dutch study looked at stool samples of 1,135 people, the Belgian, 1,106.



http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/04/why-are-your-gut-microbes-different-from-mine/480207/
That's fascinating....They tried to capture all the factors they could imagine and they missed almost completely. So what is driving microbial diversity in the gut? Did they speculate?
 

Merry

Well-Known Member
That's fascinating....They tried to capture all the factors they could imagine and they missed almost completely. So what is driving microbial diversity in the gut? Did they speculate?

There's some speculation in this paragraph:

Neither study looked at genetics, and we know that some genes can influence which bacteria a person harbors. Raes suspects that interactions between the microbes are important, so that what affects the presence of Microbe X is the presence of Microbes Y and Z, rather than anything to do with their host. Zhernakova notes that they only collected one stool sample from each volunteer, and such snapshots can’t capture the highly dynamic nature of the microbiome, which shifts between meals, hours, and months. “We need more longitudinal studies to see what is stable or not,” she says. And Schloss suggests that the makeup of the microbiome may largely be “the accumulation of coincidences.”

The final paragraph emphasizes just how little we know about the species that populate the gut:

We haven’t even identified all the players yet. By combining data from the Dutch and Flemish studies with earlier British and American ones, Raes’s team identified a total number of 664 bacterial genera. But they estimate that at least 80 more haven’t been identified, and doing so will take studies that are ten times larger than the current record-holders. That’s a common theme throughout all of microbiology—the unknowns are vast. “Even though we’re the biggest study out there, we’re still scratching the surface when it comes to charting the whole microbiota population,” says Raes. “We should be humble.”

Microbiome research, Ed Yong says, is where genetics was a few years ago -- mostly hype.

The microbiome field is negotiating the same [as genetics] cycle of hype, backlash, and introspection. Thousands of studies have linked the microbiome to almost every condition you can imagine, but many of these correlations are likely to be illusory.
 
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Cort

Founder of Health Rising and Phoenix Rising
Staff member
664 bacterial GENERA wow...They're not even talking about species....

I guess one question is who many of these genera are redundant; i.e. they may be different but they're fulfilling much the same function.
 

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