Researchers Complete Catalog of All Microbes in the Human Gut

The newly-completed catalog of all the microbes in the human gut reveals that there are more genes there than in the entire human body.

A team of researchers from around the world has cataloged the entire set of microbes that reside in the human gut, finding that the number of genes there is actually greater than earlier estimates of the number of genes in the entire human body.

This cataloguing of the human gut was undertaken in order to “understand the impact of gut microbes on human health and well-being,” according to a Nature article about the study. The team, which included researchers from Denmark, China, Germany, and Spain, among other countries, used metagenetics to sequence all genetic material contained within the gut. The researchers assert that they “were the first to employ a high-throughput method called Illumina sequencing to metagenomics, dispelling previous doubts over the feasibility of using this method for such studies.”

As a result of cataloging the contents of the human gut, the researchers discovered that the gut microbiomes of individual humans have more in common than was previously thought. The team hypothesizes that these commonalities in different microbiomes “ensure that crucial functions are carried out.”

Dr. Peer Bork, a group leader and senior scientist at European Molecular Biology Laboratory who took part in the study, commented on the implications that this study may have.

“Knowing which combination of genes is necessary for the right balance of microbes to thrive within our gut may allow us to use stool samples, which are non-invasive, as a measure of health,” said Bork. “One day, we may even be able to treat certain health problems simply by eating a yogurt with the right bacteria in it.”

The researchers added that this catalogue “will also be useful as a reference for future studies aiming to investigate the connections between bacterial genetic make-up and particular diseases or aspects of people’s lifestyles, such as diet.”