What you should know about bacteria in your gut

Researchers want to know how the 1,000 different species of bacteria in your gut. Many diseases are linked to messed up intestinal microbe distributions. But it's not entirely the bacteria's fault, it depends on your genes.

I'm taking antibiotics now, so I have been thinking about the bacteria in my gut that the medicine is killing off.

Scientists have used a new genomic sequencing machine to identify 1,000 different types of microbes that live in the human gut.

Justin Sonnenburg, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine said in a statement:

"In turn, what you eat is proving to be one of the major determinants of the components of your 'inner self' -- that community of bacteria living in your intestine."

The Stanford scientists hope to take a genetic census of the bacterial community that exists in the human gut and see how any changes interfere with the bacterial distribution. For instance, how does changing someone's diet affect the millions of the bacteria in their gut?

The scientists showed that they can predict the change in diet — only in a simplified mammalian model of two distinct microbial genes in germ-free mice. While the scientists are humanizing the mice, it will take some time to introduce the full 1,000 bacterial species. But the scientists say they have germ-free mice that represent the complex human gut.

The implications of knowing more about the bacteria in our body can help us understand how to treat complex diseases. In the same statement:

Each individual's microbial ecosystem is different in its relative composition, with potential implications for our health. Disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer and even obesity have been linked to skewed intestinal microbe distributions.

Harvard Medical School researchers are looking at the interplay between bacteria and disease. They found that bacteria in the gut could trigger the onset of arthritis and other autoimmune disorders. But they remind us that:

These bacteria do not cause the mice to “catch” arthritis. “It’s more that they have the genetic susceptibility, and this bacterium creates an environment that allows this genetic susceptibility to play out,” says [Hsin-Jung ] Wu, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School. “It’s an interaction between genetics and the environment.”

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com