human microbiome

The Human Microbiome – what you should know

Today we look at a recently published paper about the human microbiome and how it impacts health.

The journal:

International Journal of Microbiology

The paper:

The Human Microbiome and Its Impacts on Health (Jun 2020)

The authors: 

Grace A. Ogunrinola, John O. Oyewale, Oyewumi O. Oshamika, and Grace I. Olasehinde

Take-home points:

  • The human microbiome refers to the collection of microorganisms that live in and on the human body, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
  • The microbiome plays important roles in various bodily functions, including digestion, immune system regulation, and vitamin production.
  • Certain bacterial strains in the microbiome have been linked to specific health outcomes. For example:
    • Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species are commonly found in probiotics and have been shown to improve gut health and immune function.
    • Faecalibacterium prausnitzii has been linked to lower rates of inflammatory bowel disease.
    • Akkermansia muciniphila has been associated with a healthy metabolism and weight regulation.
  • Dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the microbiome, has been linked to various health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders.
  • Factors that can impact the microbiome include diet, antibiotics, and stress.
  • Strategies for maintaining a healthy microbiome include eating a diverse diet rich in fiber, avoiding unnecessary antibiotics, and managing stress levels.

Modulating the human gut microbiome

In terms of modulating the microbiome, the article notes that probiotics, prebiotics, and fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) are all potential strategies for improving microbiome health. Probiotics are supplements containing live microorganisms, while prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut. In contrast, FMT involves transplanting fecal matter from a healthy donor to a recipient to restore a healthy microbiome.

Why you should avoid antibiotics as much as possible

Regarding antibiotics, the article notes that while antibiotics can be life-saving, they can also have negative effects on the microbiome. Certainly antibiotics kill off beneficial bacteria in the gut, leading to dysbiosis and potentially increasing the risk of certain health conditions. 

The article recommends avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use and considering strategies to minimize the impact of antibiotics on the microbiome, such as taking probiotics or eating a diet rich in fiber to help restore beneficial bacteria.

Faecal Microbiota Transplants (FMT)

The article doesn’t go into extensive detail about the long-term effects of FMT, however it does mention some potential concerns. While FMT has been shown to be effective for treating certain conditions, such as recurrent Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) infections, there is still much that researchers don’t know about the procedure.

Certainly one concern is the potential transmission of infections or diseases from the donor to the recipient. While donors are screened for various infections, there is still a risk of transmitting pathogens. Additionally, the long-term effects of FMT on the microbiome and overall health are still being studied, so it’s not clear what the potential risks or benefits of the procedure may be over time.

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