Gut Flora Show Three Distinct Types in Humans, Study Finds

Apr 21, 2011, 16:43 by Greg Stacy

Gut flora, the bacteria that flourish within our stomachs, can be used to categorize people into three distinct groups, new research reveals.

The European Molecular Biology Laboratory has announced their findings in a new press release.

Researchers who used gene sequencing to catalog the human gut's microbes expected to find plenty of diversity among the people of the world, but they were surprised to learn that the bacteria clusters into three distinct, stable groups, regardless of people's gender, health, weight or age.

"We found that the combination of microbes in the human intestine isn't random," study leader Peer Bork said in the press release. "Our gut flora can settle into three different types of community - three different ecosystems, if you like."

The researchers analyzed stool samples from residents of Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, the United States and Japan in order to learn the genetic makeup of their bacteria. The researchers reported that they found three distinct microbe combinations throughout the samples.

Since the categories could correlate with specific "host properties," these findings could have major implications for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. One day doctors may class you by bacterial gut type, the same way we are classed by blood type today. Doctors currently use a patient's blood types to determine how the patient will respond to illness and to decide which medications to use to treat the patient.

"We hope there's an application" for this finding, Bork told The Los Angeles Times. "We have no clue what is driving the three types," he said, but he added that the potential to use the flora as diagnostic criteria shows promise.  

According to the press release, the researchers believe that the different types of gut flora may have something to do with how our immune systems recognize harmful bacteria or how they release hydrogen waste from cells.