How variations in bacterial composition of gut flora can influence health outcomes

Microbes in the News 2

Article & Link

Same Microbe, Different Effect


This article discusses a study written by two scientists, Dr. David Zeeli and Dr. Tal Korem. These researchers created an algorithm designed to identify the variations in flora makeup across human gut microbiomes.   They ran tests on an Israeli group of 900 individuals and then formed a partnership with some Dutch researchers to identify variants in a second population. They found that most of the same variant groups were present in each population, regardless of the differences in the makeup of the two populations. They identified variants within the groups and correlated the presence of certain microbes with patterns in health outcomes. More research is being conducted in support of the idea that there is a strong link between the health and composition of our gut flora and our overall health. This study utilized an approach for analyzing the biomes that will allow scientists to closely examine this suggested linkage.


In class we discussed how there are a few recognizable and uniquely composed groups of gut flora that make up the majority of variation in composition of gut bacteria across human microbiomes. The article covered a study delving into uncovering how those groups are identified, and how correlations can be drawn using their method in order to dissect differences in gut microbes and the impacts those variations have on health outcomes. They also discuss the mechanisms by which these variations arise, such as gene transfer which we also covered in class.


Critical Analysis

I thought that this study did a great job of breaking down a complicated study into bite size chunks that are easy to understand. The article gave an example from the research which described the relationship between a certain microbial species present and waist sizes. The mechanism behind this correlation appears to be that the group of individuals with smaller waist sized have microbiomes containing a certain microbe that is able to turn sugars into a substance called butyrate that has a positive effect on the metabolism. This is an example of a pathway that has a benefit for the host individual. One can see, through this example, how the mechanisms of variants of bacteria can have significant effects on health.