Thursday, April 21, 2011

bacteria divide people into types

NYTimes | In the early 1900s, scientists discovered that each person belonged to one of four blood types. Now they have discovered a new way to classify humanity: by bacteria. Each human being is host to thousands of different species of microbes. Yet a group of scientists now report just three distinct ecosystems in the guts of people they have studied.

Blood type, meet bug type.

“It’s an important advance,” said Rob Knight, a biologist at the University of Colorado, who was not involved in the research. “It’s the first indication that human gut ecosystems may fall into distinct types.”

The researchers, led by Peer Bork of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, found no link between what they called enterotypes and the ethnic background of the European, American and Japanese subjects they studied.

Nor could they find a connection to sex, weight, health or age. They are now exploring other explanations. One possibility is that the guts, or intestines, of infants are randomly colonized by different pioneering species of microbes.

The microbes alter the gut so that only certain species can follow them.

Whatever the cause of the different enterotypes, they may end up having discrete effects on people’s health. Gut microbes aid in food digestion and synthesize vitamins, using enzymes our own cells cannot make.

Dr. Bork and his colleagues have found that each of the types makes a unique balance of these enzymes. Enterotype 1 produces more enzymes for making vitamin B7 (also known as biotin), for example, and Enterotype 2 more enzymes for vitamin B1 (thiamine).

The discovery of the blood types A, B, AB and O had a major effect on how doctors practice medicine. They could limit the chances that a patient’s body would reject a blood transfusion by making sure the donated blood was of a matching type. The discovery of enterotypes could someday lead to medical applications of its own, but they would be far down the road.

“Some things are pretty obvious already,” Dr. Bork said. Doctors might be able to tailor diets or drug prescriptions to suit people’s enterotypes, for example.

Or, he speculated, doctors might be able to use enterotypes to find alternatives to antibiotics, which are becoming increasingly ineffective. Instead of trying to wipe out disease-causing bacteria that have disrupted the ecological balance of the gut, they could try to provide reinforcements for the good bacteria. “You’d try to restore the type you had before,” he said.

Dr. Bork notes that more testing is necessary. Researchers will need to search for enterotypes in people from African, Chinese and other ethnic origins. He also notes that so far, all the subjects come from industrial nations, and thus eat similar foods. “This is a shortcoming,” he said. “We don’t have remote villages.”

The discovery of enterotypes follows on years of work mapping the diversity of microbes in the human body — the human microbiome, as it is known. The difficulty of the task has been staggering. Each person shelters about 100 trillion microbes.

(For comparison, the human body is made up of only around 10 trillion cells.) But scientists cannot rear a vast majority of these bacteria in their labs to identify them and learn their characteristics.

2 comments:

Adsz said...

i didnt read that but any way its cool to help poeple with information thanx for how ever wrote this

Ared said...

so cool what adsz wrote commet now

There's Still A Civil War Bubbling For Control Of The Israeli Government

mondoweiss |    Any Palestinian following the developments in the Israeli protest movement against “the judicial coup” will require nerves...