Modern life has brought great progress. But it has also shrunk our rainbow of microbes. Many experts think this reduction in diversity may contribute to autoimmune disorders including asthma and allergies.
Communities of people who live close to the earth through hunter-gatherer lifestyles may resemble each other in microbiome makeup more than their urban neighbors or even local farmers.
In recent research an international team of researchers led by the University of Oklahoma has detected a strong link between the lifestyles of indigenous communities and their gut microbiomes.
The team looked at the three types of gut microbiomes:
- The Matses, an Amazonian hunter-gatherer community
- The village of Tunapunco, small-scale farmers
- Urban city-dwellers in Norman, Oklahoma
Their observations showed stunning results: geographic proximity mattered less than lifestyle in determining human gut microbiome. Thus hunter-gatherers in in South America and Africa reveal microbiomes more alike than rural farmers or urban-dwellers, even in neighboring populations.
Another interesting finding was that one bacteria genus Treponema is noticeably absent.
“In our study, we show that these lost bacteria are in fact multiple species that are likely capable of fermenting fiber and generating short chain fatty acids in the gut. Short chain fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. This raises an important question, could these lost Treponema be keystone species that explain the increased risk for autoimmune disorders in industrialized people? This is what we hope to explore next,” wrote an author of the study.
The article is available in Nature Communications.