Your ‘healthy’ bac­te­ria are as in­di­vid­ual as you are

Daily Trust - - HAS#TAG -

When it comes to the com­mu­ni­ties of help­ful bac­te­ria liv­ing in and on people, “one-size-fits-all” is def­i­nitely not the rule, a new study finds.

A team at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan found wide vari­a­tion in the types of bac­te­ria that healthy people have in their di­ges­tive tracts and else­where, sug­gest­ing that ben­e­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ties of mi­crobes come in many dif­fer­ent forms.

Each per­son has a unique collection of bac­te­rial com­mu­ni­ties aris­ing from their life his­tory, diet, med­i­ca­tion use and en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­po­sures, the re­searchers said. Col­lec­tively, these com­mu­ni­ties are known as the “mi­cro­biome.”

“What our data shows is that just be­cause a per­son’s mi­cro­biome is dif­fer­ent doesn’t make it un­healthy,” study au­thor Patrick Schloss, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy and im­munol­ogy at the univer­sity’s med­i­cal school, said in a school news re­lease. He said the re­searchers also “demon­strates there’s more to learn about the fac­tors that cause one’s mi­cro­biome to change.”

Schloss’ team an­a­lyzed bac­te­ria sam­ples from nearly 300 healthy adults. The sam­ples were gath­ered from 18 places on the body, in­clud­ing the mouth, nose, gut, be­hind each ear, and in­side each el­bow.

The re­searchers found that the type of com­mu­nity in one lo­ca­tion can pre­dict the type of com­mu­nity in an­other lo­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to the study pub­lished April 16 in the jour­nal Na­ture.

“What was un­ex­pected was that it was pos­si­ble to pre­dict the type of com­mu­nity a per­son had in their gas­troin­testi­nal track based on the com­mu­nity in their mouth,” Schloss said. “This was pos­si­ble even though the types of bac­te­ria are very dif­fer­ent in the two sites.”

The mix of mi­crobes liv­ing in cer­tain lo­ca­tions can even re­veal some as­pects of a per­son’s life his­tory. For ex­am­ple, level of ed­u­ca­tion was linked with vagi­nal com­mu­nity type, the team found, and whether a per­son was breast-fed was as­so­ci­ated with their gut com­mu­nity type. Gen­der also in­flu­enced sev­eral types of com­mu­nity types.

The re­searchers did not find a link be­tween changes in com­mu­nity type and any changes in a per­son’s health.

The find­ings might have prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tions some­time in the fu­ture, Schloss said.

“Un­der­stand­ing the di­ver­sity of com­mu­nity types and the mech­a­nisms that re­sult in an in­di­vid­ual hav­ing a par­tic­u­lar type or chang­ing types will al­low us to use their com­mu­nity type to as­sess dis­ease risk and to per­son­al­ize their med­i­cal care,” he ex­plained.

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