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Gut microbiota

The genetic characteristics of gut microbiota

Study could open up future research and disease assessment for diabetes

Researchers in China have published a metagenomic study on human gut microbiota and their potential impact on T2DM. Published in the journal Nature, the authors claim the study sheds new light on future research and disease assessment for diabetes.

In order to investigate an analysis of gut microbial content in patients with T2DM, the researchers from BGI (Beijing, China), developed a protocol for a metagenome-wide association study (MGWAS) and undertook a two-stage MGWAS based on deep shotgun sequencing of the gut microbial DNA from 345 Chinese individuals.

“Gut microbiota has been widely considered as an important contributor to many kinds of chronic disease, like T2DM. However, it is still unclear what and how exactly these commensal microbes contribute to human health,” said Junjie Qin, Primary Investigator of the study.

In the study, approximately 60,000 T2DM-associated markers were identified and validated, and this helped to establish the concept of a metagenomic linkage group (MLG), enabling taxonomic species-level analyses.

According to the researchers, this concept allows easy classification and description of the abundant metagenomic data in a taxonomic form that can be used to replace traditional taxonomic classification approaches. The approach can provide metagenomic species-level information even for unknown species, including bacterial species-specific regions on a chromosome, and mobile genetic elements, such as plasmids and bacteriophages.

The MGWAS analysis showed that patients with T2DM were characterised by a moderate degree of gut microbial dysbiosis, a decrease in the abundance of some universal butyrate-producing bacteria and an increase in various opportunistic pathogens, as well as an enrichment of other microbial functions conferring sulphate reduction and oxidative stress resistance.

An analysis of 23 additional individuals demonstrated that these gut microbial markers might be useful for classifying type 2 diabetes

Healthy individuals typically had a higher number of butyrate-producing bacteria, which the researchers theorise may play a protective role against several types of diseases.

The T2DM patients who saw an increase in the number of opportunistic pathogens, this type of pathogen varied from patient to patient. Such changes in the gut bacteria composition have recently been reported for colorectal cancer patients and ageing population.

The investigators said that this study provides an important foundation for comprehensively understanding the genetic characteristics of gut microbiota and their relationship to T2DM risk, as well as providing a new way of classifying microbes detected by DNA sequence.

The work could also open the way for transferring the potential value of a gut-microbiota-based approach into a means for clinical assessment and diagnosis of patients at risk of this disease.

“As the human's 'second genome', the gut microbiome has a tight relationship with human health,” said Jun Wang, Executive Director of BGI. “High-throughput sequencing technologies and metagenomics serve as robust tools for researchers to comprehensively explore the gut microbiota related with diseases, and shed new light into disease prevention and treatment. I believe the epoch of personalised medicine based on gut microbiome is not far away.”

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