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Largest gut bacteria database launches

Tuesday February 5th, 2019

Scientists have discovered more than 100 new gut bacteria as part of a project to create the biggest database of its kind, it was announced last night.

The research, carried out by the Wellcome Sanger Institute, UK, Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Australia, and EMBL's European Bioinformatics Institute, will change the way researchers study the human microbiome.

It will also enable them to ascertain more accurately and quickly how our microbiome keeps us healthy.

Details of the new database were published in Nature Biotechnology and the research team say it will help scientists to develop new ways of treating diseases such as gastrointestinal disorders, infections and immune conditions.

The study involved studying faecal samples from 20 people from the UK and Canada, and the researchers successfully grew and DNA sequenced 737 individual bacterial strains from these.

Analysis revealed 273 separate bacterial species, including 173 that had never previously been sequenced. Of these, 105 species had never been isolated before.

First author Dr Samuel Forster, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Australia, said the database will “fundamentally change” the way researchers study the microbiome.

"This study has led to the creation of the largest and most comprehensive public database of human health-associated intestinal bacteria. The gut microbiome plays a major in health and disease,” he added.

Dr Rob Finn, from EMBL's European Bioinformatics Institute, said: "For researchers trying to find out which species of bacteria are present in a person's microbiome, the database of reference genomes from pure isolates of gut bacteria is crucial.

“Then if they want to test a hypothesis, for example that a particular species is enriched in a certain disease, they can get the isolate itself from the collection and physically test in the laboratory if this species seems to be important."

Senior author Dr Trevor Lawley, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, described the creation of the database “a game-changer” for basic and translational microbiome research.

“By culturing the unculturable, we have created a resource that will make microbiome analysis faster, cheaper and more accurate and will allow further study of their biology and functions,” he said.

“Ultimately, this will lead us towards developing new diagnostics and treatments for diseases such as gastrointestinal disorders, infections and immune conditions."

Nature Biotechnology 4 February 2019

Tags: Australia | Europe | Internal Medicine | UK News

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