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Microbes Found In Ancient Poop May Help Relieve Chronic Conditions

by : Cameron Frew on : 13 May 2021 11:38
Microbes Found In Ancient Poop May Help Relive Chronic ConditionsPA

Human poo from around 2,000 years ago may hold the key to relieving chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

Researchers have been investigating the correlation between ancient microbes once found in our ancestors’ digestive systems, diets in a bygone era, and how this could affect rates of chronic illnesses.

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It’s a field that regularly runs into a problem: human faeces from thousands of years ago isn’t exactly easy to come by. However, eight samples were recently found in Mexico and the southwest of the US, said to be ‘exquisitely preserved’ thanks to the desert conditions where they were found. They’re between 1,000-2,000 years old.

In a new study published in the Nature journal, scientists from the Joslin Diabetes Centre in Boston found pre-industrial gut microbiomes (the bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses found inside your gut) back then differed to ours today.

These are key to digesting food, fighting diseases and keeping our immune systems regulated. However, after reconstructing hundreds of microbial genomes, the team noted how ancient and modern non-industrial genomes are better at metabolising starches, and may be capable of relieving a number of chronic conditions, whether it’s diabetes, obesity or autoimmune diseases.

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A non-industrial diet is ‘characterised by consumption of unprocessed and self-produced foods, limited antibiotic use and a more active lifestyle,’ according to the study.

Aleksandar Kostic, co-author of the study, told CNN: ‘When [microbes are] gone we’re missing a key piece of what makes us us… we could reseed people with these human-associated microbes.’

While research in the field is progressing, there’s still a lot of work to do. However, it’s hoped the US Food and Drug Administration will approve fecal microbic transplants soon.

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Currently, there’s nothing experts can do to resurrect extinct microbes to today’s gut microbiomes; that said, Kostic is looking into whether certain microbes could be introduced to the human gut, which could be reconstructed using synthetic biology.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Science, poo

Credits

Nature and 1 other
  1. Nature

    Reconstruction of ancient microbial genomes from the human gut

  2. CNN

    'Lost' microbes found in ancient poop could relieve chronic illness