What was interesting about some of the other species with smaller populations is that they were host specific. We could only identify them on a single host. It is entirely possible that everyone could have a unique bacterial signature, says Blaser, much in the same way eveyone has a unique DNA signature or a unique fingerprint.
Blaser is also beginning to explore the role these may play in skin disease and that research may be paying off. Initial studies of patients with psoriasis suggest differences in skin bacterial populations between patients who have the disease and those who do not.
Daniel Frank of the University of Colorado, Boulder, is part of a team that is exploring the role bacterial communities in the human digestive tract may play in inflammatory bowel diseases. They are collecting and comparing microbial communities in samples from people with Crohns disease, people with ulcerative colitis and healthy volunteers.
Some researchers are looking at the role a specific organism, like E. coli, might play in the development of inflammatory bowel disease. Our task was to look more broadly. What are the microbes we see as a whole in the gut and how might those populations change in relation to disease" says Frank.
Instead of any one particular organism associated with inflammatory bowel diseases, they observed significant shifts in microbial populations between healthy subjects and those with disease, including a loss of normally protective bacterial populations.
The bacteria in the digestive tract could also play a role in obesity. Ruth Ley of Washington University in St. Louis is part of a team that has been investigating the relationship between bacteria in the gut and weight. Several years ago they discovered that obesity was associated with changes in the relative abundance of certain types of bacteria in the digest
|Contact: Jim Sliwa|
American Society for Microbiology