The tens of trillions of microbes living in the gut are major players in human health. So-called friendly intestinal bacteria promote health, but disruptions in our resident microbes also have been linked to childhood malnutrition, an underlying cause of death for some 2.7 million children annually.
Now, two studies published Feb. 18 — one in Science and the other in Cell — both led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, show that effects of gut bacteria reach far beyond the gastrointestinal tract, influencing development of distant tissues, including muscle, bone and brain. Further, the research indicates that manipulating the makeup of microbes in the gut has the potential to provide new ways to treat and ultimately help prevent childhood malnutrition.
Both studies, led by Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of Washington University’s Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology, involved an international team of scientists and were carried out in germ-free mice with gut microbes transferred from either healthy or malnourished young children living in Malawi, in Africa. Collaborators included the University of California at Davis, University of Malawi, University of Tampere and Duke University, among other institutions.
The featured article was originally published at Washington University’ s the SOURCE: Targeting gut microbes may reverse effects of childhood malnutrition