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Battling Bacteria In A Crowded Human Gut

Gut Bacteria

Scientists have gained a new understanding of the mechanisms at work within the human intestines, to explain why people remain healthy despite their being pathogenic organisms in the gut and why some people fall ill. The answer comes down to competition, with ‘good’ bacteria locked in a battle over nutrients with ‘bad’ bacteria (both of which make up the gut microbiome).

As part of a key survival mechanism, a new study suggests “friendly” bacteria aggressively protect an area by injecting lethal toxins into any other microbial cells that contact them. The protection of these beneficial bacteria is of importance, for they process indigestible parts of our diet, produce vitamins, and offer protection against pathogens.

Specifically the research showed bacteria of the phylum Bacteroidetes (a major constituent of the gut) is adept at producing a toxin to deal with pathogens. What surprised researchers was the way different types of toxins were produced.

Going forwards, it is hoped understanding how these toxins work will have clinical importance, especially in improving gut health. The microbiome of the gut is connected with conditions like cancer, obesity, and autoimmune diseases.

Recent articles published by The Latest News have shown the health link. One piece of research discussed showed how the composition of gut bacteria leads to a loss of an essential amino acid that is needed for glutathione production. Medical evidence suggests glutathione deficiency is connected with metabolic diseases, including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The research is was led by Aaron Wexler of the Department of Microbial Pathogenesis at the Microbial Sciences Institute at West Campus (Yale University) and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper is titled “Human symbionts inject and neutralize antibacterial toxins to persist in the gut.”

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.