According to many recent studies, human intestinal bacterial populations are capable of affecting various aspects of our physical and mental health. Despite this, many bacteria remain unmapped by scientists. A new study has now uncovered approx. 2,000 previously unknown intestinal bacteria.
Recent studies included Medical news today has shown that the intestinal microbiota can play a role in Parkinson's disease and dementia, and they can explain why type 2 diabetes drugs work well for some, but not for others. New research is shown yesterday in the journal Nature– has now identified nearly 2,000 new bacterial species that scientists have never cultivated in a laboratory before.
The European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) team and the Wellcome Sanger Institute, both in Hinxton, UK, used computational analysis to assess gut microbiome samples from participants worldwide. "Calculation methods allow us to understand bacteria that we cannot yet cultivate in the laboratory," explains study author Rob Finn of the EMBL-EMI.
"Using Metagenomics [the analysis of genetic material] Reconstructing bacterial genes is a bit like reconstructing hundreds of puzzles after merging all pieces together without knowing what the final image should look like, and after completely removing a few from the mix just to make it a little harder, "he continues .
However, Finn notes: "Scientists are now at a stage where they can use a variety of computational tools to supplement and sometimes lead laboratory work to uncover new insights into the human intestine."
A new approach
The team was able to reconstruct 92,143 genomes from samples from 11,850 different gut microbiotes. This allowed the researchers to identify 1,952 species of intestinal bacteria that they and others had not known until this point. Finn and colleagues explain that many bacterial species have "maintained a low profile", so to speak, because researchers have only found them in very low amounts in the gut, or they cannot survive outside the intestinal environment.
This notices has hitherto prevented researchers from adding such species to their list of gut bacteria they know about. This is also the reason why the team that completed the current study decided to take a new route – and use a combination of calculation methods to try to come up with a more comprehensive "map" of the human microbiota.
"Calculation methods allow us to get an idea of the many bacterial species living in the human gut, how they evolved, and the roles they can play within their microbial communities," says study director Alexandre Almeida.
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"In this study," Almeida explains, "we delivered the most comprehensive public databases of gastrointestinal bacteria to identify non-seen bacterial species. The analytical methods we used are highly reproducible and can be used for larger and more diverse datasets in the future that enables further discovery. "
In the future, researchers hope that this and similar studies will further help their understanding of the human intestine, which in turn will help develop better treatments for different conditions.
"Research like this helps us create a so-called blueprint of the human gut, which in the future can help us understand human health and disease better and even lead the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases."
-Study co-author Trevor Lawley, from the Wellcome Sanger Institute
At the same time, the team notes that the current study has made researchers more aware of a large gap in research on intestinal bacteria. Researchers are currently relatively unaware of bacterial species characteristic of populations other than those in Europe and North America, the investigators stress.
"We see a lot of the same bacterial species reared in data from European and North American populations. But the few South American and African datasets we had access to for this study revealed significant diversity that was not present in the former populations" notes find.
"This suggests that collecting data from under-represented populations is crucial if we want to achieve a truly comprehensive image of the human intestinal composition," he adds, and encourages researchers to continue focusing on several cohorts.
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