A team of scientists has launched an appeal to establish a worldwide microbiota safe that includes „good bacteria“ from the most remote populations on Earth. The equivalent of the Global Seed Vault, to ensure the future health of humanity.
Animal model studies have highlighted the existence of a causal relationship between microbiota alterations and conditions such as: obesity, asthma, allergies, juvenile diabetes and autism.
Unfortunately, industrialization is associated with the loss of part of these bacteria, through food, refined and bacteria-poor waters, administration of antibiotics before and after birth, abundance of caesarean sections and an unorthodox relationship with nature.
The loss of diversity in the intestinal flora we are subjected to recalls the pressures on global ecology due to climate change and, with over 50% of the world’s population living in cities, the problem is destined to further worsen.
Scientists from Rutgers University and the University of San Diego think that some of the modern diseases could be prevented in the future by reintroducing some of the lost microbes. An international effort and important funding is needed to collect samples from remote populations and store them in an international project designed for future generations, such as that of the Global Seed Vault.
To analyze the bacterial diversity between the various environments, both geographic and chemical, the team of researchers has sequenced the 16S rRNA gene, a specific genetic marker for bacteria and their relatives, archaeobacteria. The 16S rRNA sequence serves just like a barcode, i.e. allows you to identify different types of bacteria. And in this first data set, the researchers identified as many as 300,000 unique bacterial sequences of 16S rRNA.
One of the first curiosities that emerged from the first data of the project is to demonstrate how the environmental context can affect the microbiome: for example, the microbiomes of the skin of cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and fish are more similar to each other than they are with that of the water in which they swim. „These global ecological models offer only a taste of what can be done with coordinated and cumulative sampling,“ the researchers explain. „This project provides both a resource for exploring a myriad of issues and a starting point for acquiring new data to be able to respond.“
The idea is to transmit to our descendants a patrimony as faithful as possible to that handed down by our ancestors for 200 thousand years. Some partial databases already exist, but mostly collect the microbiome of western populations, used for clinical or research purposes.“The bank of microbes should be truly isolated, in the coldest possible place and as autonomous as possible, so if a serious disaster occurs, the collection can survive,“ said the author of the proposal Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello. We owe to future generations the microbes that colonized our ancestors for at least 200,000 years of human evolution, „they write in their proposal. „We have to start before it’s too late.“