Genes & Gut Bacteria Colonisation

Kathy Wheddon Nutritional Therapist DipION

Latest research from the California Institute of Technology has indicated that we have genes to thank for helping encourage colonisation of the common bacteria type, the Bacteroides. The research team, led by Professor Sarkis Mazmanian, chose to study the Bacteroides bacteria as it is one of the most abundant found in the human microbiome (the community of bacteria that shares our body space).

The team identified previously uncharacterised genes to support the theory that individual species of bacteria effectively saturate a specific habitat and in doing so prevent other species from colonising. This genetic system responsible has been called Commensal Colonization Factors (CCF).

“We knew that bacteria are in our gut, but this study shows that specific microbes are very intimately associated with our bodies,” commented Mazmanian. “They are living in very close proximity to our tissues, and we can’t ignore microbial contributions to our biology of our health”.

Another important discovery was made alongside the genetic system; that the gut bacteria live in the gut lining, rather than in the centre of the gut (the lumen) as previously thought. Advanced imaging revealed that populations of bacteria were in fact living in tiny pockets, called crypts, in the colon.

The identification of the genetic CCF system, in addition to the discovery of species specific crypts in the colon, has provided key insights into gut bacteria colonisation. Following the study, the Bacteroides species have been identified as a ‘keystone’ species necessary for developing the gut ecosystem. Further research aims to determine the potential impact of how the inability of the bacteria to adhere to crypts could lead to disease of the body.

For more information on how other species of bacteria can support your health, visit 'What are Probiotics?'