The diversity of intestinal flora influences overall health. It has now been determined which microorganisms are particularly important in the intestine and how they work together to create a healthy microbiome.
In a new study involving experts from the University of Melbourne, an assessment has been developed and implemented to quantify the interactions of gut microorganisms important for health with other microorganisms that produce nutrients that the healthy gut microorganisms need to survive. The results are published in the specialist journal “Nature Communications”.
New insights into the intestinal flora
The team studied the intestinal flora for years to find out which types of microorganisms fulfill which functions. This enabled the researchers to determine which types of microorganisms come from the intestinal flora, how different species interact and what consequences this has for the body.
What constitutes a healthy intestine?
“In a healthy intestine there are around 1,000 different types of bacteria – a microscopic multicultural community with over a trillion individual members,” reports study author Professor Samuel Forster in a press release.
Bacteria in the microbiome exist as communities. They depend on each other to produce important nutrients and exchange them, explains the study author. We have developed a new calculation method to better understand these dependencies and their role in shaping the microbiome, the expert continued.
The composition of the intestinal flora (intestinal microbiome) is unique and influences, for example, metabolism, the gastrointestinal tract, the brain and also the immune system.
Sick due to an imbalance of intestinal microbes
When humans are healthy, symbiotic (useful or healthy) and pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes work in balance. If, on the other hand, there is an imbalance between these microbes, which is known as dysbiosis, this disrupts the microbes and makes people more susceptible to illness, the researchers explain.
According to experts, such diseases include, for example, inflammatory bowel disease and Clostridioides difficile infections, which are known to cause severe diarrhea and inflammation of the colon or colitis.
Selective restoration of intestinal flora
The method developed by the team forms the basis for novel treatment options that selectively restore the intestinal flora. For example, the researchers confirmed the importance of hydrogen sulfide in Crohn’s disease.
The team reports that in Crohn’s disease, the most likely cause is the loss of bacteria that use hydrogen sulfide. Previously, experts believed that this was due to an increase in species of hydrogen sulfide-producing bacteria, but this turned out to be incorrect.
Results enable the development of new therapies
According to the researchers, the new results are an important step in the development of complex microbial therapies. The new approach makes it possible to identify and evaluate the most important interactions between bacteria. This knowledge could then be used to predict targeted ways to change the intestinal flora.
Researchers hope that humanity is on the threshold of a new era of healthcare in which the microbiome is nurtured and optimized to improve overall human health. The experts conclude that improved understanding of the intestinal flora opens the door to new medical possibilities for the treatment of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, infections, autoimmune diseases and cancer. (as)