Scientists analyzing the gut microbiome have found groups of bacteria that are either abundant or nearly absent – a finding that could aid in coming up with ways to intervene to improve a person’s health. Though there is gradual variation in the abundance of much of gut bacteria, the scientists said in this week’s issue of the journal Nature Communications, specific bacterial groups exist in stable configurations that are associated with a person’s physiology and health.
Scientists have long studied the link between our genes and our health. Now, in a growing area of scientific research, they’re studying the link between the bacteria in our intestines and virtually every disease that ails us.
Helicobacter pylori may be the most successful pathogen in human history. While not as deadly as the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, cholera, and the plague, it infects more people than all the others combined. H. pylori, which migrated out of Africa along with our ancestors, has been intertwined with our species for at least two hundred thousand years. Although the bacterium occupies half the stomachs on earth, its role in our lives was never clear. Then, in 1982, to the astonishment of the medical world, two scientists, Barry Marshall and J. Robin Warren, discovered that H. pylori is the principal cause of gastritis and peptic ulcers; it has since been associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer as well. Until that discovery, for which the men shared a Nobel Prize, in 2005, stress, not an infection, was assumed to be the major cause of peptic ulcers.
Recent studies have suggested that the gut microbiome may be an important factor in the development of colorectal cancer. Abnormalities in the gut microbiome have been reported in patients with colorectal cancer; however, this microbial community has not been explored as a potential screen for early-stage disease. We characterized the gut microbiome in patients from three clinical groups representing the stages of colorectal cancer development: healthy, adenoma, and carcinoma. Analysis of the gut microbiome from stool samples revealed both an enrichment and depletion of several bacterial populations associated with adenomas and carcinomas.
Among men in the U.S., prostate cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death. Despite its prevalence, there are few established risk factors for prostate cancer. Some studies have found that intake of certain foods/nutrients may be associated with prostate cancer risk, but few have accounted for how intake and metabolic factors may interact to influence bioavailable nutrient levels and subsequent disease risk.
Neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), are deﬁned by core behavioral impairments; however, subsets of individuals display a spectrum of gastrointestinal (GI) abnormalities. We demonstrate GI barrier defects and microbiota alterations in the maternal immune activation (MIA) mouse model that is known to display features of ASD. Oral treatment of MIA offspring with the human commensal Bacteroides fragilis corrects gut permeability, alters microbial composition, and ameliorates defects in communicative, stereotypic, anxiety-like and sensorimotor behaviors. MIA offspring display an altered serum metabolomic proﬁle, and B. fragilis modulates levels of several metabolites. Treating naive mice with a metabolite that is increased by MIA and restored by B. fragilis causes certain behavioral abnormalities, suggesting that gut bacterial effects on the host metabolome impact behavior. Taken together, these ﬁndings support a gut-microbiome-brain connection in a mouse model of ASD and identify a potential probiotic therapy for GI and particular behavioral symptoms in human neurodevelopmental disorders.