Scientists create a catalog of human gut bacteria

A team of researchers from MIT and the Broad Institute has created a vast sample book containing nearly 8000 strains of bacteria from the human intestinal microbiome. As has long been known, most of these bacteria are useful or otherwise not harmful but there is a small minority that contributes to various health problems, including inflammatory bowel diseases.

The data set is available to all other researchers the hope of its creators is that it will help shed more light on the various dynamics of the many populations of bacteria found in the digestive tract of humans, as specified by Eric Alm, director of the Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics as well as professor at Al MIT.

The database was created by analyzing the stool collected from about 90 people in the Boston area over the course of two years. Currently, researchers are trying to improve the same database by analyzing samples from around the world. In this way, for example, it will be possible to identify and catalog the microbial strains that are not found in the intestinal tracts of those people who live in an industrialized area and in any case the catalog will certainly be more complete.

“Exploring this genetic and functional diversity is fascinating – wherever we look, we discover new things. I am convinced that enriching biobanks with a wide variety of strains from individuals living different lifestyles is essential for future progress in human microbiome research,” reports Mathilde Poyet, MIT researcher and one of the main authors of the study that appeared in Nature Medicine.

This study fits into the current stream of new research that is increasingly taking into account the weight and general importance of human microbes. Despite the numerous researches, at the moment it is still difficult to understand the functions of many bacteria and the links they may have with various diseases.


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