AUG 02, 2021 5:48 AM PDT

The Unique Microbiomes of Long-Lived People

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

What's the secret of people that live a long life? The answer may be complex but for some, it could include the microbiome, a community of trillions of microbes that live in the gastrointestinal tract. New research reported in Nature has suggested that people that reach the age of 100 or more, centenarians, have a microbiome that could be shielding them from severe infections that are difficult to treat or chronic diseases that tend to crop up as people get older. This research may also help scientists harness the power of the microbiome to prevent and treat various types of disease.

A medical illustration of Clostridioides difficile bacteria / Credit: CDC/ Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit / Medical Illustrator: Jennifer Oosthuizen

For this study, the researchers were able to assess the microbiomes of people of different ages by analyzing fecal samples with metagenomic tools. The microbiomes of 160 Japanese centenarians were compared to microbiomes of two other groups of individuals: 85- to 90-year-old people and 21- to 55-year-old people. The centenarians were found to have higher levels of bacterial species in the colon that generate secondary bile acids than the other groups. Research has suggested that secondary bile acids can protect against pathogens and help regulate immune system responses.

In this research, the scientists exposed pathogenic bacteria to some of the centenarians' elevated secondary bile acids. One secondary bile acid, isoalloLCA, inhibited the growth of the antibiotic-resistant pathogen Clostridioides difficile and other bacterial pests. IsoalloLCA also reduced C. difficile growth in a mouse model. The data indicated that this secondary bile acid might be having a significant positive impact on health.

"The ecological interaction between the host and different processes in bacteria really suggests the potential of these gut bugs for health maintenance," said co-first study author Damian Plichta, a computational scientist at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

More work will be needed to understand exactly how secondary bile acids in the gut are affecting human health and longevity and put that into therapeutic practice. But this work shows that researchers can identify molecules generated by bacteria in the microbiome that have the potential to treat infections.

"Our collaborative work shows that future studies focusing on microbial enzymes and metabolites can potentially help us identify starting points for therapeutics," said co-corresponding study author Ramnik Xavier, also of the Broad Institute.

Sources:  Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Nature

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUL 15, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Host Genetics Can Influence the Microbiome
JUL 15, 2021
Host Genetics Can Influence the Microbiome
The human microbiome is intimately connected to our health; the genes and proteins expressed by gut microbes can influen ...
JUL 17, 2021
Microbiology
Fungi Can be a Healthy or Destructive Part of the Gut Microbiome
JUL 17, 2021
Fungi Can be a Healthy or Destructive Part of the Gut Microbiome
Scientists have been revealing the importance of gut bacteria; the huge numbers of bacterial species in our gastrointest ...
JUL 18, 2021
Microbiology
Alarming Rise in Antibiotic Resistance Among Bangladeshi Kids with Pneumonia
JUL 18, 2021
Alarming Rise in Antibiotic Resistance Among Bangladeshi Kids with Pneumonia
Antibiotic resistance is a growing threat to public health, and experts have been warning about it for so long, they've ...
JUL 19, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
ATP & GTP Are Common in Biology - But What About CTP?
JUL 19, 2021
ATP & GTP Are Common in Biology - But What About CTP?
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a molecule that provides crucial energy to activate a wide array of biological processes ...
JUL 18, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Researchers Find Strange 'Borg' DNA - It's Assimilating
JUL 18, 2021
Researchers Find Strange 'Borg' DNA - It's Assimilating
Our environment is full of DNA molecules. While researchers have become concerned about DNA waste material that's ac ...
AUG 08, 2021
Microbiology
Manganese Could be an Achilles' Heel for Some Pneumonia Germs
AUG 08, 2021
Manganese Could be an Achilles' Heel for Some Pneumonia Germs
Researchers recently discovered bacteria that fed on the element manganese. Scientists also know that some bacterial pat ...
Loading Comments...