LivingThe microbial Noah's ark that will protect our health

The microbial Noah's ark that will protect our health

We are not aware of this, but a large microbial community flourishes within us, made up of hundreds of different species of fungi, bacteria, archaea, protozoa, viruses … It is estimated that we harbor about 100 billion of these microorganisms , which constitute the so-called microbiota . This, under normal conditions, helps us in very different ways, for example to make digestion or even to fight pathogenic microbes.

Well, according to a group of researchers from different US institutions, the increasing industrialization that our societies have experienced in recent decades is helping to limit the diversity of the aforementioned microbiota.

In an article published in the journal Science , these experts, coordinated by Professor María G. Domínguez-Bello, from the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Rutgers University, state that the incidence of certain cognitive diseases has increased enormously since the Second World War metabolic and immune system, which range from obesity and asthma to diabetes. Domínguez Bello and his collaborators suspect that changes in the microbiota, favored by the aforementioned impulse of industrial processes, could be a common factor that explains this phenomenon and point out that we are facing a weakening of the microbial heritage that humans have acquired after millions years of evolution. In his view, this could end up triggering a global health crisis.

An international plan

To deal with this issue, the team led by Domínguez-Bello has proposed creating a repository in which beneficial microorganisms are conserved, something like a microbial Noah’s ark whose specimens would be taken from populations that had remained outside the influence. of processed diets, antibiotics and other factors that could contribute to this loss of diversity. This would be the case of some groups in Africa and South America that, until now, have lived on the fringes of urbanization. Apparently, urban societies are those that have experienced the loss of diversity in their microbiota the most. In most Americans, for example, this is about half that of the hunter-gatherer tribes that still survive in the Amazon.

Scientists have been inspired by the Svalbard Seed Bank, a facility on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen that holds hundreds of thousands of grain samples. This would guarantee the survival of the crops in the event of a global catastrophe.

Dominguez-Bello and the other co-authors of the trial believe that certain diseases can be prevented in the future by reintroducing beneficial microbes that we have lost. However, for this it is necessary to launch an international initiative that aims to recover and preserve them.

Reference: Preserving microbial diversity. Maria G. Dominguez Bello et al. Science (2018) . DOI: 10.1126 / science.aau8816

Image: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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