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Gut bacteria groups uncovered

Wednesday April 27th, 2011

In addition to blood groups, people belong to "intestinal bacteria groups" which can affect their health, according to a new scientific study.

An international research team studied genetic samples from people living in four countries. They identified three distinct clusters, or groups, that are not specific to a nation or continent, or linked to body mass index, age, or gender.

"Our knowledge of species and functional composition of the human gut microbiome is rapidly increasing, but it is still based on very few cohorts and little is known about variation across the world," they write in the journal Nature.

The team, which comprises researchers from ten countries, confirmed the existence of these three groups in other large gene studies.

The first group is dominated by the Bacteroides bacteria, the second by Prevotella, and the third by Ruminococcus plus Staphylococcus, Gordonibacter and Akkermansia, and is the most common. Each has its own way of supplying energy and produce vitamins in varying amounts.

The findings suggest that "intestinal microbiota variation is generally stratified, not continuous". "This indicates further the existence of a limited number of well-balanced host-microbial symbiotic states that might respond differently to diet and drug intake," they believe.

Dr Julian Parkhill of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK, and colleagues say the discovery of these groups "provides promising opportunities for individual medicinal and dietary advice".

The same research team, called the MetaHIT consortium, catalogued the genes of human intestinal bacteria last year. Every person is host to several hundred types of gut bacteria.

Arumugam, M. et al. Enterotypes of the human gut microbiome. Nature, published online 20 April, 2011.

Tags: Gastroenterology | UK News | World Health

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