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Ancient Gut Microbiomes may Unravel the Links to Modern Diseases

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  • Aug 09, 2021

The variants of gut microbiome, or accumulations of bacteria and other microbes present in our digestive system can play a very harmful role in diabetes and many other diseases according to a new study. The scientists at the Joslin Diabetes Center have found out the significant differences between the variants of gut microbiomes present in ancient North American people to that of the modern microbiomes found in modern humans, giving the new evidences of the evolution of these microbes from different diets. “Scientists are analyzing the extremely high genome sequencing of the microbial DNA found in the dried feces of the ancient native human in the dry caves of Utah and Northern Mexico,” says Joslin Assistant Researcher Aleksandar Kostic, PhD, lead author of a nature paper regarding the work.

With the help of more extensive and in-depth genomic study than the previous ones on ancient human regarding the gut microbiomes, the study was considered to be the first of its kind which revealed a new type of microbes, says Kostic, who is also an Assistant Professor of microbiology at the Harvard School of Medicine. In previous study while studying the children in Finland and Russia, Kostic and his colleagues revealed that the chances to develop type 1 diabetes is more likely in children belonging to the industrialized regions than in the non-industrialized zones and they also have very different gut microbiomes in their initial year of life, according to Kostic. Also, the former case has a higher chances of suffering not only from type 1 diabetes, but also the other diseases like allergic and autoimmune diseases. Kostic also said that questions like how the healthy microbiome were before the period of industrialization cannot be answered with any modern human being as even the tribal people who live in the remotest regions of the Amazon have been infected from Covid-19.

Steven LeBlanc, an archaeologist who previously worked at the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, came to Kostic with a dramatic alternative source which microbial DNA was found in samples of dried human feces that museums collected from arid environments in Southwest North America. They compared DNA from eight exceptionally well-preserved ancient gut samples from dry caves (some from the current 1st century AD) with DNA from 789 modern sample most of which came from people on industrialized ‘Western’ diets and the rest from people who consumed non-industrial foods (grown in their own communities). The differences between the microbiome populations were striking. For instance, a bacterium known as Treponema succinifaciens “isn't in a single Western microbiome that we analyzed, but in each of the eight ancient microbiomes,” Kostic said. Ancient microbiomes most closely matched with modern non-industrial microbiomes.