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article imageCall for a microbial 'Noah's Ark' to protect global health

By Tim Sandle     Oct 7, 2018 in Science
Microbiologists have stated that a microbial 'Noah's Ark' is needed in order to protect global health. This is due to a widespread loss of microbiota diversity around the world.
The scientists see the loss of microbial species as a potential health threat comparable, in terms of its implications on future generations, to climate change. Microbiologists based at Rutgers University have said that the development of a global microbiota vault should be established as a matter of urgency.
The idea is to build-up a collection of beneficial microorganisms collected from human populations around the world, focusing on people who possess microbiomes that have not been compromised by antibiotics, or by other factors likely to shift the composition such as diets rich in processed foods. The researchers argue that the microbiomes of people who live in high-income countries have been affected by continued doses of antibiotics throughout life and they have been altered through diet, with the overall effect being a loss in microbial diversity.
According to Professor Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello, who is leading the call for the microbial vault: ""We're facing a growing global health crisis, which requires that we capture and preserve the diversity of the human microbiota while it still exists."
The level of variation in the gut microbiome between different people and locations across the globe is considerable. Although over 1,000 different bacterial species have been found to exist in the human gut, each individual is thought to harbor an average of 160 of these organisms (based on research published in Nature).
The loss of microbial diversity is also linked with a rise in certain health problems. The gut microbiota, which refers to the trillions of microbes inhabiting the human intestine, is a complex ecological community and changes in diversity are linked to health issues like diabetes and obesity.
The idea of a microbial vault draws parallels with the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which is the world's largest collection of crop diversity created in case of natural or human-made disasters. The concept for the microbial repository has been outlined in the journal Science. The research paper is titled "Preserving microbial diversity."
More about mirobes, Microorganisms, microbiome, gut health
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