Sound health depends on minority microbes

August 3rd, 2011 - 6:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 3 (IANS) A one-hundredth of one percent of total microbes that inhabit the colon, a section of the large intestine, may be minor in number but are fundamental for health, a research says.

The study is the first to sample these or any other microbes at specific places in the colon.

It was led by Rex Gaskins, genomic biology professor, University of Illinois, and Eugene Greenberg, gastroenterologist, Carle Foundation.

Colon bugs are known for fermenting undigested food, degrading and disposing of their by-products. Their absence can derail human health, Greenberg said.

A 2006 study by Gaskins demonstrated that hydrogen sulphide, a major by-product of such bacterial fermentation, damages the DNA and may lead to colon cancer, reports the Microbial Ecology Journal.

Although there is a genetic angle as well, evidence suggests that inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are triggered by microbial imbalance, according to an Illnois statement.

Common Crohn’s symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weight loss, poor appetite, fever, night sweats, rectal pain, and rectal bleeding.

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis have no medical cure, fluctuating between periods of inactivity and activity.

“When you see Crohn’s disease, you see an area of involvement, then it’s normal and then you see another area of involvement,” said Greenburg.

“And if you do surgery and remove the disease, the disease almost always recurs from the point of removal because - we believe - it’s been reseeded with microbes,” he added.

Previous studies looked only at microbes passed in stool.

“Little was known about their ecology,” added Gaskins.

“We’re getting closer and closer to looking at the microbiological origin of many diseases,” Greenberg said.

The finding is relevant because these disease tend to originate in very specific regions of the colon, Greenberg said.

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