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Liping Zhao and his team at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China put a morbidly obese man on a diet of whole grains, traditional Chinese medicines, probiotics and non-digestible carbohydrates for 23 weeks. The diet was designed to inhibit the bacteria thought to be associated with weight gain by increasing the pH in the colon.
The 175-kilogram volunteer lost 51 kg, despite not exercising. People who have had weight-loss surgery lose on average 49 kg. Continue reading Gut-microbe swap changes Eating Habits
Hospital superbug Clostridium difficile can wreak havoc in the guts of vulnerable people, especially those who have lost some of their protective gut flora as a result of antibiotic use. Once it takes hold, the bacteria can cause nasty diarrhoea and in some cases is fatal. The usual treatment for the infection, which affects over half a million people in the US each year, involves a strong course of antibiotics. But the infection returns in about 20 per cent of cases, and some people become chronically infected. Continue reading Faecal Bacteria Cocktail treats superbug Infection
DISPOSING of corpses can be tricky. Bury them in a shallow grave and hungry animals are liable to dig them up. Our body faces a somewhat similar problem when it comes to disposing of unwanted substances. One of the ways the liver purifies blood is by adding the equivalent of a “chuck this out” label to molecules, but this label is made of a kind of sugar – and the bugs in our gut have a sweet tooth. Some produce a special enzyme that allows them to cut off the sugar and eat it, which often results in compounds being recycled within the body rather than disposed of.
Back in the 1980s, Richard Jefferson used the enzyme to develop a powerful technique now relied upon by thousands of genetic engineers around the world. At the same time, he was intrigued by the enzyme’s normal role. Its recycling effect helps determine the blood levels of many compounds, including important substances such as sex hormones. Jefferson realised that the bacteria within us, far from being passive hangers-on, must affect us in profound ways. Continue reading The Hologenome: A new view of Evolution
There’s more to malnutrition than poor diet. Two complementary studies suggest that microbes have an important role to play in both the onset and treatment of a poorly understood form of malnutrition called kwashiorkor.
Malnutrition, the leading cause of death among children worldwide, remains something of a puzzle. It is unclear, for instance, why some children are especially prone to becoming malnourished when siblings they live with appear to fare better.
Now Jeffrey Gordon at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, and his colleagues have found that a child’s risk of malnutrition may come down to the microbes in his or her guts. Continue reading Abnormal gut bacteria linked to severe malnutrition