The Gentrification In Our Guts

Andrew Sullivan —  May 14 2012 @ 10:36am

A new study compared the intestinal microbes of people in the US, Malawi, and a remote Amazonian part of Venezuela:

[Researcher Jeffery Gordon] found adults in the U.S. have a rather uniform collection of microbes living in them, compared to people in rural Malawi or the Amazon forests of Venezuela. Gordon can only speculate about the reasons why — it could be because the U.S. uses more antibiotics, or perhaps because people in Malawi and Amazonia are exposed to more microbe-rich environments.

Ed Yong worries:

As many parts of the world shift towards a western lifestyle, there’s a risk that we might lose important reservoirs of bacterial diversity. The microbiomes of the world are becoming increasingly gentrified, and we need to study them while we still can.