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Gut Bacteria Affect the Brain

Soulskill posted about 7 months ago | from the colbert-was-right-all-along dept.

Science 162

Rambo Tribble writes "John Cryan, a researcher at the University College Cork, explains the relationship between the bacteria in your gut and your brain. 'In a pioneering study, a Japanese research team showed that mice raised without any gut bacteria had an exaggerated physical response to stress, releasing more hormone than mice that had a full complement of bacteria. However, this effect could be reduced in bacteria-free mice by repopulating their gut with Bifidobacterium infantis, one of the major symbiotic bacteria found in the gut. Cryan’s team built on this finding, showing that this effect could be reproduced even in healthy mice.' It seems the flora in your intestines can influence brain development as well as aspects of health and nutrition, which in turn affect such things as hormones and neurotransmitters. 'His team tested the effects of two strains of bacteria, finding that one improved cognition in mice. His team is now embarking on human trials, to see if healthy volunteers can have their cognitive abilities enhanced or modulated by tweaking the gut microbiome.'"

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Stating the obvious (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46306711)

No shit Sherlock! Brrrapp! Lol.

Re:Stating the obvious (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 7 months ago | (#46306845)

Even this WSJ http://online.wsj.com/news/art... [wsj.com]

Re:Stating the obvious (0)

Kongming (448396) | about 7 months ago | (#46306953)

Dr. Stephen T. Colbert has been telling us to think with out gut for even longer.

Re:Stating the obvious (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 7 months ago | (#46308015)

Thing is your gut has its own nervous system, the connections to the brain can be cut and the gut will still function normally.

We are a colony organism (4, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | about 7 months ago | (#46306717)

We are 90% bacteria. It is time we stopped viewing ourselves as a monlithic organism and started viewing ourselves as some sort of managed colony.
http://www.npr.org/templates/s... [npr.org]

"We think that there are 10 times more microbial cells on and in our bodies than there are human cells. That means that we're 90 percent microbial and 10 percent human. There's also an estimated 100 times more microbial genes than the genes in our human genome. So we're really a compendium [and] an amalgamation of human and microbial parts."

Re:We are a colony organism (3)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 7 months ago | (#46306735)

We're more of a bacterial mass-transport vehicle.

Re:We are a colony organism (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 months ago | (#46307161)

I always knew humans were basically full of shit.

Re:We are a colony organism (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#46308073)

Careful with that antibacterial slant to your comments...

it turns out bacteria are people, too.

Re:We are a colony organism (2)

pgpalmer (2015142) | about 7 months ago | (#46308221)

So Soylent Green is... bacteria?
Ew.

Re:We are a colony organism (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46308553)

Well, cheese and yogurt basically are. Or at least bacterial waste. Flavored with mold in the case of cheese.

Re:We are a colony organism (4, Funny)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#46308801)

My gut tells me you're onto something here.

Re:We are a colony organism & (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#46308845)

Just noticed your sig.

I have to believe we will rectify the Beta to leave the legendary /. give and take commentary alive.

But my friend, I have lurked on the alternatives to the green line site, and it is the antithesis of pretty. Assuming your curious nature is spawned from the intellectual, root hard for a better Beta.

Beta (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46309053)

I'm praying for it, so to speak, I've yet to find anywhere else even half as good for rousing, wide-ranging discussions. I'd really hate to have lost both Groklaw and Slashdot in such a short time.

On the other hand I'd probably end up spending a lot more time out in the real world, which would be a much less intellectually stimulating, but do good things for my dating life.

Re:We are a colony organism (3, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46306745)

This is misleading, because our mass is still predominantly genetically human eukaryotic cells. Bacteria are so tiny that there are a greater number of them, but we're still mostly just human.

Re:We are a colony organism (5, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 7 months ago | (#46306867)

As someone who does this stuff for a living, I'd argue the contrary—that the weight ratio is misleading, because it's an exception. In terms of RNA and protein-coding genes, isoforms, homologues, and selection rates, in addition to more obvious things like number of cells, they vastly outstrip the core of the body. Think also of how much more time they've cumulatively had to evolve and swap genes!

The best analogy for this, I think, is a *nix distro—the human genome is a monolithic kernel, and the bacteria are all the shell scripts and daemons that help manage it.

Re:We are a colony organism (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 months ago | (#46307175)

The best analogy for this, I think, is a *nix distro—the human genome is a monolithic kernel, and the bacteria are all the shell scripts and daemons that help manage it.

It's funnier if you run it the other way.

Re:We are a colony organism (4, Funny)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#46307221)

...the human genome is a monolithic kernel, and the bacteria are all the shell scripts and daemons that help manage it.

So what you're telling me is essentially that the viability of myself and any offspring is going to depend on a massive collection of perl scripts. Lovely. I'm forked. :(

Re:We are a colony organism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46308537)

Ah, but the human population explosion equation becomes a nice elegant /bin/sh fork bomb script.

Re:We are a colony organism (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 7 months ago | (#46307403)

I agree, it's about the active parts, not the scaffolding. Just as you would judge a home more by its occupants than by the walls and furniture, at least if you were interested in behavior more than artifact and architecture.

Re:We are a colony organism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46307459)

But that is like saying a city is made more for roads than it is buildings.

While a city CAN have more roads, realistically it still has more of an influence from the things between those roads, the buildings, than people realize.

These bacteria have been with us since before humans existed, since before most surface life existed.
I wouldn't be surprised if they are prevalent in sea species as well (but I am not 100% sure how bacteria lives in waters as much)
Our body NEEDs them to function correctly. More so than you would need both your arms and legs, in fact. Hell, even your eyes.
You make a body entirely sterile for 20 years and release it in to the wild, it'll die in, pfft, minutes probably. (probably double digits, but likely no more than an hour)
To be honest, you'd be lucky to even live 20 years STERILE in the first place. Most major externally facing autoimmune conditinos are due to low interaction with infection vectors which completely screws the immune response, so it panics and increases it until it finds something, just in the same way that you consciously feel more pressure on the skin until your body lowers the sensitivity. (or less if you scratch it hard enough and then you scratch more and more, endless cycle, eczema is suffering)

This also brings up an interesting thought that some people in the near-ish future will need to figure out.
Space travel is going to be an absolute bitch for this. The further or longer periods of time people spend away from Earth, the worse they are going to be if they return.
As more and more colonies sprout up, it is going to create even more diverse environments that people will not be exposed to (especially with space since these are semi closed systems with the only mode of transport being humans, really)
I could imagine a time where 400+ years down the line, there will be bacteria in some colonies that will be completely lethal to some in other colonies.
One way to possibly get around this would be to culture bacterial strains in each environment and cart them off to all other colonies to mix the species to prevent too huge a diversification. This would create a stable ecosystem across all of them, with only a little extra work required. And they'd just be sent along with any regular periodic transports.
Of course, 400+ years down the line, they might not even need to culture, they could probably 3D print them. We can already grow artificial genomes and structures pretty decently now, simple ones, but still possibly. 400 years time, yeah we will totally master that. We'll be making designer bacteria out-the-metaphorical-ass by then. Shame we will be plant-food by then. Or getting peed on by dogs as we flow in the wind as grass. The circle of life.

Re:We are a colony organism (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46308717)

This is nothing new to space travel - look at what happened to the Americas when they were first exposed to European microbes in a big way - estimates are that between 40-90% of the indigenous population was wiped out by a combination of European diseases and some sort of blood-sweating disease that probably originated in South America at about the same time, long before a single colonist crossed the ocean. (Viking records suggest they had discovered the Americas long before, but left them alone because the densely populated continent sported warriors too numerous and vicious for raiding to be worthwhile)

Space travel is actually unlikely to be a major issue - you can divide space travel into two classes:
- intra-solar - where populations are unlikely to remain completely isolated for more than a few years or decades at a stretch, and thus not have to worry about serious new disease/immunity pairs cropping up.
- inter-stellar - where, barring new physics, travel times are likely to be in the centuries at least, and thus probably quite rare (and not near-term by most definitions) even for the closest stars. In this case the risks will be great, but the opportunity low and quarantine completely reasonable - send a few brave souls up to join the travelers for a few months and make sure they won't introduce anything lethal to the colony. Of course this could go very badly for the travelers so maybe they want to offer up a few canaries of their own in a smaller quarantine before letting the colony's canaries into the broader shipboard population.

Or perhaps by that point we'll have medical nanotech capable of performing seek-and-destroy on any dangerous/unrecognized pathogens and it won't be too much of an issue.

Re:We are a colony organism (2)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 7 months ago | (#46306771)

Well, crap. I was taking an antibiotic this week. But not it's starting to sound like genocide.

Re:We are a colony organism (2)

danlip (737336) | about 7 months ago | (#46306847)

Just suicide. Many other instances of those bacteria strains inhabit other people, so you won't be committing genocide (unless you use a blessed scroll).

Re:We are a colony organism (1)

hirundo (221676) | about 7 months ago | (#46307499)

> That means that we're 90 percent microbial and 10 percent human.

That's very eukaryotecentric of you. Given the proportions, why assume that only the cells with nuclei are human rather than the other way around. Maybe we're 90 percent human and 10 percent new weird stuff. Dude, let the prejudice go and embrace your inner prokaryote.

Re:We are a colony organism (1)

AsmCoder8088 (745645) | about 7 months ago | (#46307805)

Not only that, but the statement that we are 90 percent microbial and 10 percent human given that there are 10 times as many microbial cells as there are human cells is mathematically incorrect:

x=10y
1.0=x+y
1.0 = (10y)+y
1.0 = 11y

Therefore it is more accurate to say that we are 90.909% microbial and 9.0909% human.

Machines (4, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46306733)

I don't think I mind being an extraordinary complex machine functioning to protect the interests of very simple organisms incapable of thinking for themselves. But that might just be my bacterial overlords talking.

Re:Machines (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 7 months ago | (#46306875)

FILTHY HUMAN SHELL:

We order you to procure more monosaccharides and disaccharides of appropriate molecular conformation.

Or we shall consume you and find a superior performing shell.

Re:Machines (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46307213)

Maybe we accept politicians because we're so used to taking orders from primitive, self-interested organisms.

Re:Machines (1)

easyTree (1042254) | about 7 months ago | (#46308795)

On behalf of the bacteria, I would object most vehemently at your disparaging comparison.

Re:Machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46306877)

I don't think I mind being an extraordinary complex machine functioning to protect the interests of very simple organisms incapable of thinking for themselves. But that might just be my bacterial overlords talking.

Obligatory: I, for one, welcome our new bacterial overlords.

Re: Machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46307995)

Wow this comment made my day. Great, absolutely great!

Re: Machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46308799)

Gosh, we sure do love ourselves!

Re:Machines (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 7 months ago | (#46307239)

It seems possible that guy bacteria affects nutrient absorption, and that affects brain activity. The studies so far have not focused on mechanisms of action, just showing that the effect does exist.

For all we know, those poor mice had that constant, gnawing hunger that couldn't be satiated. And that's why they couldn't think clearly.

Re:Machines (1)

TheRealQuestor (1750940) | about 7 months ago | (#46308331)

It seems possible that guy bacteria affects nutrient absorption, and that affects brain activity. The studies so far have not focused on mechanisms of action, just showing that the effect does exist. For all we know, those poor mice had that constant, gnawing hunger that couldn't be satiated. And that's why they couldn't think clearly.

seems a little sexist to me. maybe more than 1/2 of all bacteria is female. :)

Re:Machines (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46308749)

Actually, I've heard a rumor that 100% of bacteria are completely genderless. Bunch of freaks going around having sex just to tinker with their own DNA. At least they're not as bad as the slime molds with their five different genders, crawling around the forest floor in a giant colorful amoeba-like orgy for anyone to see. Shameful. ;-)

This is new news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46306741)

Really? This is well known already wtf

Re:This is new news? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 7 months ago | (#46306765)

The distinction of this study is that it was a detailed objective study of hormone levels, letting scientists, not laypeople, begin to approach understanding the underlying processes involved and how to control them.

Re:This is new news? (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about 7 months ago | (#46306917)

Yes. FIAF. Having better numbers is nice, but this is not new.

two words i never thought i'd see together (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46306749)

smart enema

Morality questions (5, Interesting)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 7 months ago | (#46306761)

I know I'm not the first person to think of this, but...

The more external influences we see on brain function, the less sure I am of how appropriate it is to hold people responsible for their actions.

For example, if child molestation is something one is predisposed to after being molested as a child, what's a just punishment if/when that person him/herself goes on to molest? Or, in this case, if ones gut bacteria makes on prone to certain behaviors, for example stress --> violence (not sure that's right, but just for the sake of discussion), should we hold every to persons equally accountable for having a violent reaction?

Re:Morality questions (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 7 months ago | (#46306831)

Well, if I were molested as a child, and I grew up with the impression that molesting a child was a good thing for me to do, hmm. I guess I'd molest a child? Except, as it stands, there are a lot of very mean people with tasers and shit that will beat me to death if I do that. So, maybe it seems like a good idea, but there are consequences?

Holding someone accountable for their actions has more functions than "application of justice". Justice is something that's nice to think about, but it's really a dumb concept. It's mostly deciding what we do and don't want in our society that counts. If your wife sucks some guy's dick because he put a knife to your throat, and then doesn't tell you because she feels terrible about it, well... maybe we give her a pass. If she sucks some guy's dick and doesn't tell you because she's a lying, cheating slut... maybe she can go to hell. And how is that justice? It didn't hurt you none, and you weren't around anyway to get your dick sucked, so what do you care? Oh but you get a divorce because she's been sucking dicks.

Create the expectation.

Re:Morality questions (4, Insightful)

danlip (737336) | about 7 months ago | (#46306923)

Independent of this, there is a moral question of "should we be punishing people?" The alternative is to focus on deterrence, rehabilitation, and protecting society. "Protecting society" could justify locking someone away for ever (if the justice system determines there is no chance of rehabilitation). "Rehabilitation" could include altering their microbiome if we figure out how, or it could just be psychological work. Punishment is government administered revenge - it may provide some deterrence, but it's not particularly good at it. But modern justice systems still focus almost entirely on punishment.

Re:Morality questions (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 7 months ago | (#46307467)

Punishment is easy to administer and audit - it pairs well with the concept of "Justice." Rehabilitation is a squishy concept, hard to measure, easy to accuse of uneven administration, favoritism, corruption.

Even though "Justice" has little to do with making the future a better time / world a better place, those are the systems we have in place, and they seem to endure more because they are easy to explain and understand than because they are effective.

Re:Morality questions (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | about 7 months ago | (#46308667)

Punishment is easy to administer and audit - it pairs well with the concept of "Justice." Rehabilitation is a squishy concept, hard to measure, easy to accuse of uneven administration, favoritism, corruption.

Exactly. But if we can quantitatively measure the cause -- imbalance of gut bacteria or neural pathways or chemicals or whatever it happens to be -- then we can also determine if it has been resolved. We're a LONG way from having that capability, but perhaps someday....

Re:Morality questions (1)

easyTree (1042254) | about 7 months ago | (#46308811)

I guess it's more difficult to profit long-term from rehabilitation.

What kind of business model would it be for those organizations running prisons if they start creating less demand for their services? No, what they need to do it increase demand or at least arrange circumstances such that there's an increasingly slippery slope leading towards uptake of their services.

Re:Morality questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46306949)

I know I'm not the first person to think of this, but...

The more external influences we see on brain function, the less sure I am of how appropriate it is to hold people responsible for their actions.

I think, perhaps, you are confusing "holding people responsible" with "punishment". You also seem to have ignored the importance of protecting the rest of society from predators. To take your hypothetical child molester as an example, we have a duty to protect others from this monster. Even if the guy is a schizophrenic who is not entirely responsible for his actions, we still have to protect others from him for the good of all of us.

Re:Morality questions (1)

almitydave (2452422) | about 7 months ago | (#46306977)

Well, if someone suffers from a mental condition that makes them predisposed to molest children, then I would say they as a self-determining individual are less culpable. Note that this does NOT mean that they are any less of a danger to children (the kid's still fucked), so the question becomes what's the appropriate punishment/response. From the perspective of the victims, it doesn't make a difference what form of incarceration is imposed; but to the perpetrator it's a big difference.

I think many people have difficulty feeling any compassion for child molesters, but they're still human beings with rights, and possibly mental problems that aren't their fault. In our effort to "solve" child abuse, we need to consider the best interests of the abusers as well. Although I'm glad that this form of sexual disorder is still seen as such by general society, I'm worried that people lean to heavily on ostracism as the only solution.

Re:Morality questions (1)

javelinco (652113) | about 7 months ago | (#46307071)

So, in this case, if they are unable to control their actions, then either we need to reprogram them or terminate them, correct? Why feel bad killing off a bad program?

Re:Morality questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46307989)

I know! Like alcoholics, homosexuals, and the mentally retarded, right???

Re:Morality questions (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | about 7 months ago | (#46308697)

So, in this case, if they are unable to control their actions, then either we need to reprogram them or terminate them, correct? Why feel bad killing off a bad program?

But it's not a bad program, that's the point. It's merely been given bad input. "Terminating the program" in this case would be like deleting Photoshop because it can't improve any of your photos -- when you've been leaving the lens cap on the whole time.

Re:Morality questions (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46308783)

Or we could simply remove them from society, allowing them to continue to live in a controlled enviroment where they can't hurt anyone else. I'm thinking something like a zoo, except individuals are caged to prevent them from continuing to hurt others, rather than to help preserve their species.

Re:Morality questions (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 7 months ago | (#46307357)

The problem with the phrase "hold people responsible for their actions" is that many people seem to think it means "get revenge on people who we think wronged us." Modern criminal systems focus on rehabilitating criminals, not "punishing" them. Whether or not you're responsible for your actions only has bearing on whether or not you deserve retributive punishment. What you did and the chances of you doing it again are relevant to whether or not you can be allowed to run around unsupervised. Your gut made you kill and eat those people? Fine, we can try to look for treatments to help rehabilitate you, but as long as we don't have those you're still danger to society and need to be locked up.

Re:Morality questions (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46308803)

What country are you in? The US "justice" system certainly doesn't operate on any such principles. If it did we wouldn't sentence perpetrators of minor and victimless crimes to protracted immersion in a a population of hardened criminals, forcing them to become far more dangerous in the interest of self-preservation, and giving them the opportunity to learn many new criminal skills from experts in the field.

Re:Morality questions (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | about 7 months ago | (#46307699)

The more external influences we see on brain function, the less sure I am of how appropriate it is to hold people responsible for their actions.

If you want to consider yourself a free individual, you have to accept responsibility for your own actions. In that sense it doesn't matter whether you are really acting out of free will or not. It's all about how you choose to see yourself. Personally, I don't see the attraction of thinking of myself as an automaton, but if I did then I certainly couldn't object if others (automaton or not) took steps to protect themselves from me, since I'm claiming to have no control over my effects on them.

If you harm someone and refuse to make amends, then in a legal sense it doesn't really matter whether you're being punished (proportionally) for your actions or merely experiencing reciprocation. There is no need to assign blame; the response is the same whether you're a free agent intent on doing someone harm or merely a dangerous machine.

Re:Morality questions (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46308813)

It goes even further than that - if you claim to be an automaton then the logical extension is that everyone else is as well, and they are thus not responsible for putting you though a meat-grinder for wearing mismatched socks, leaving you no grounds to object. Of course you will probably do so anyway, but that's okay, as an automaton you didn't have a choice and are thus not responsible for your hypocrisy.

Pro-biotic yoghurt is the new Red Bull (0)

bazmail (764941) | about 7 months ago | (#46306775)

The more I read about gut bacteria the more it looks like we are merely a life support vessel for these creatures. Who is to say that as a colony they don't influence decision making of the host? There are examples of this sort of thing all over nature.

Re:Pro-biotic yoghurt is the new Red Bull (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46307193)

Yogurt and Red Bull? Just never drink milk with Red Bull unless you want to hurl your guts out!

Meat Tubes (2)

resistant (221968) | about 7 months ago | (#46306785)

I'm not surprised by this discovery. Evolutionarily, we're all really complex support systems for long meat tubes that ingest energy and building materials and excrete whatever is not useful. Even the mighty brain only exists to increase the odds of the tube surviving. Bacterial strains that also increase the chances of a meat tube surviving will be favored by simple Darwinian logic. Naturally, they will influence every body system, including the brain.

Admittedly, one doesn't like to feel like a puppet. I wonder what this means for the free will that humans supposedly possess.

Re:Meat Tubes (2)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | about 7 months ago | (#46307217)

> I wonder what this means for the free will that humans supposedly possess.

Nothing, because free will isn't really a meaningful concept. It all falls apart when you try to define it. You either wind up with a meaningless definition, or no free will. It appears that we respond to stimulus in the only way we can based on our biology and past experiences. Free will became extremely unlikely when we realized that souls are imaginary.

Re:Meat Tubes (2)

easyTree (1042254) | about 7 months ago | (#46308859)

Nothing, because free will isn't really a meaningful concept. It all falls apart when you try to define it.

When definition proves difficult, often a series of examples allows the definition to be communicated indirectly.

I'll start the ball rolling by responding only with the word 'cheese' as a full explanation of your incorrectness.

Re:Meat Tubes (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46308873)

> Free will became extremely unlikely when we realized that souls are imaginary.
Really, when did they prove this?
Free will first became completely impossible when we discovered that everything in the universe operated according to deterministic physical laws.
Then it became probably illusory when we discovered that quantum mechanics was non-deterministic and had an influence on brain function.

I'm not overly inclined to believe in an personal immortal soul (which is an extremely narrow subset), but I can't think of any way you could prove that some meta-physical influence doesn't "stack the dice" of the quantum phenomena that influence brain function. Even if you could prove that there were no statistical anomalies present all that does is set limits on the kinds of influences possible - after all rolling 2,3,5 is statistically equivalent to rolling 5,2,3, but can make a huge difference on the outcome of the game.

antibiotics experience (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 7 months ago | (#46306801)

I was on antibiotics for a staph infection a while back, and I felt a general weakness and lack of drive. I know the antibiotics were working because I stopped farting, and my poops were relatively unprocessed and didn't stink.

Would this count as an epigenome? (1)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | about 7 months ago | (#46306843)

By replacing the entire bacterial culture could this be passed along maternally...

Or a forced nurture of an epigen carrier and genes it might affect?

Re:Would this count as an epigenome? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46308913)

I believe epigenetics typically refers more to changes to the cell hosting the DNA. Maybe meta-genetics for our internal symbiotic ecosystem? Symbi-genetics?

Actually a lot of bacteria don't enter the bloodstream and thus can't be passed to the developing fetus. But as far as a "meta-genome" is concerned consider this: Roughly half of the sugars in human milk are completely indigestible to humans. But they do happen to be the ideal growth medium for the gut bacteria necessary to digest the typical human diet. Bacteria that must find their way from one human gut to another via some other, environmental, route.

I should have listened to my mother (2)

Ukab the Great (87152) | about 7 months ago | (#46306849)

When she told me that donuts would make me stupid.

Re:I should have listened to my mother (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46308871)

At least you stopped eating them before they drove you to join the police force; right?

Healthy bacterias (3, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | about 7 months ago | (#46306869)

Be careful with what makes you what you are. This shows the importance of not abusing generic/strong antibiotics, breast feeding childs for years (probiotics are probably an incomplete fix) and not removing your appendix [wikipedia.org] without need. If you don't care enough about that, may be a fecal transplant [mayoclinic.org] in your future.

Re:Healthy bacterias (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#46306933)

It is often advisable (consult your doctor) to eat a probiotic food such as yogurt with live cultures when on, and after, an antibiotic treatment. I've become a fan of Kefir [lifeway.net] .

Re:Healthy bacterias (1)

javelinco (652113) | about 7 months ago | (#46307005)

Probiotics have been shown to have a negligible impact on healthy gut bacteria. The only way, currently, to reliably restore gut bacteria colonies is to get a fecal transplant.

Re:Healthy bacterias (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#46307113)

... a negligible impact on healthy gut bacteria.

If you are on an antibiotics regimen that is what you may not have. The idea is to replace them when the antibiotics have killed them. I've had doctors recommend it to me (eating yogurt when on antibiotics). I would now use Kefir.

Re:Healthy bacterias (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 7 months ago | (#46307411)

The vast majority of doctors aren't scientists, and many believe all sorts of odd things. I'm not saying you're wrong. It is a reasonable hypothesis, but I'm not sure anyone has tested it appropriately.

Some potential problems I see are that yoghurt and other "probiotic" cultures tend to be monocultures, or close to it, and have to pass through concentrated stomach acid. There are some good studies that show people exposed to a wider variety of microorganisms have healthier immune systems. Dirt would seem to be a better probiotic supplement than the manufactured stuff. This Kefir stuff seems to only have ten or so bacterial strains in it.

Re:Healthy bacterias (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#46307527)

The results of various antibiotics on gut bacteria are fairly well known - it kills them. The results on the digestive system can be "unpleasant." That is why you want to eat the yogurt, to aid in repopulating the gut with the bacteria needed for the digestive system to work properly.

It's because of the monoculture problem that I've come to favor Kefir. Yogurts commonly only have 1 or 2 strains, I think I might have seen varieties that have 4, or maybe even 6. But Kefir, depending on the variety, will have from 10-12 different strains. I think Kefir is going to be preferable to eating dirt since they all live nicely in the human gut. The stuff in dirt ...??

Re:Healthy bacterias (1)

javelinco (652113) | about 7 months ago | (#46307895)

Yes, that's what antibiotics can do - kill the bacteria. My concern is that you think yogurt gets them back. It doesn't work - that's what the scientific studies show.

Re:Healthy bacterias (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#46307987)

Do they? The ones I remember seeing (IIRC) were trying to alter balance of existing gut flora, not replenish after a loss due to treatment with antibiotics. In that case, yes, that is what I recall - at least for a particular methodology for doing so.

Re:Healthy bacterias (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 7 months ago | (#46307939)

I'm not disputing that antibiotics kill gut bacteria. But I don't know that there's any evidence that probiotic supermarket products help replenish it in any meaningful way. Remember that a normal course of antibiotics aren't going to kill everything anyway - the survivors will proliferate of their own accord once the antibiotic is discontinued.

It's possible these products do help. If so, it still seems that dirt would be an even better alternative since the available evidence suggests that variety is very important.

My point is that there's at least as much evidence that dirt (or nothing) works as well as anything you can buy in the supermarket. Note that real Kefir is a dairy product produced by fairly open air fermentation, traditionally in an animal hide bag. It contains a complex mixture of yeast and bacteria, not much like the pasteurized supermarket product with a few selected bacterial strains reintroduced.

Re:Healthy bacterias (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 7 months ago | (#46307997)

I think Kefir is going to be preferable to eating dirt since they all live nicely in the human gut. The stuff in dirt ...??

The people who have Crohn's disease and going for the autoimmune treatment have been to Africa to stomp in some piles of shit to contract hookworm. Supposedly that works. I've heard it's possible to mail-order a porcine whipworm from Thailand which is more controlled and less likely to get out of control.

It's all banned here in the US, so they just do lots of bowel resections. That probably pays more too.

Re:Healthy bacterias (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about 7 months ago | (#46308187)

I think there has generally been a reluctance in Western medicine up until fairly recently to make use of therapies of that sort, probably for a lot of reasons. Drugs and surgery tend to be well known treatments, and have the halo of modern science and a certain specificity to them. Using leaches*, maggots, and hookworms would seem medieval, and to be something of a Pandora's box, even if it works. Still, at least some treatments of that sort are making a comeback.

Medicinal Leeches: Nature’s Finest Surgical Tool From the Swamps [yalemedlaw.com]

Although long dismissed as quackery, the medicinal leech has recently made a modern medical comeback and is now being used by doctors to treat everything from reattaching severed fingers and salvaging necrotic tissue to treating potentially fatal circulation disorders.

Maggot Therapy Takes Us Back to the Future of Wound Care: New and Improved Maggot Therapy for the 21st Century [nih.gov]

Re:Healthy bacterias (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46309113)

Western medicine does seem to have an unhealthy fascination with the utterly-controlled and technological. For example we've known for 50+ years that dogs can reliably smell lung cancer long before it will show up in any tests, yet have you even once seen a cancer-sniffing dog used to perform fast, non-invasive screening anywhere in the country?

Perhaps it's a culture reaction to its rather incompetent and superstition-laden past. I just hope they get over themselves soon.

HUSH! (1)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | about 7 months ago | (#46307049)

If EU hears this they will put potatoball up as an controlled substance.

Re:Healthy bacterias (3, Informative)

HairyNevus (992803) | about 7 months ago | (#46306997)

"Another method of adjusting the bacterial profile of your gut is to undergo a transplant that involves taking faecal material from a donor’s intestine – often a close relative – and implanting into a recipient via enema infusion. This unorthodox treatment has been shown to successfully treat infections caused by pathogenic bacteria colonising the gut."

Shit transplants....we've gone too far.

Colon colonization (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46309135)

Hey, lots of species actually eat the stuff, especially scavengers whose gut is more prone to picking up invaders. Be glad our doctors have found a more palatable way to recolonize your colon.

I wonder what the rational behind using a close relative is though? I mean I could see a spouse - they're unlikely to be carrying any serious infections you don't already share, but a sibling or parent? I suppose it's slightly less disgusting than getting a transfusion from some stranger, but come on, we're talking about the difference between 9 and 9.5 on the 10-point disgust-o-meter scale. I suppose it would make requesting the donation a bit less awkward at least.

TFA not available in UK (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46306871)

Seriously, WTF BBC?

We're sorry but this site is not accessible from the UK as it is part of our international service and is not funded by the licence fee.

How fucking moronic. Its the fucking BBC that I pay for and I can't see a fucking article?

Re:TFA not available in UK (2)

easyTree (1042254) | about 7 months ago | (#46308975)

Duh! You need to be one of the overseas viewers who don't pay anything at all for the service. Greedy Brit :P

transplanting (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 7 months ago | (#46306879)

I wonder when we can buy the first DIY gut-flora-transplant-kits from kickstarter.

Re:transplanting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46306929)

> DIY gut-flora-transplant-kits

Maybe something a bit more hygienic than 2 girls 1 cup.

Re:transplanting (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 7 months ago | (#46309149)

A fecal-smoothie enema doesn't exactly require anything you can't pick up cheap at your local pharmacy, why would you go to Kickstarter?

Not really new (1)

eulernet (1132389) | about 7 months ago | (#46306945)

I knew that since a few years.

For example, multiple sclerosis seems to be related to some bacteria, that are inoffensive in the gut, but lethal in the brain (I'm pretty sure Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases are similar).
The transfer from gut to brain is facilitated when your body loses his protections.
For example, one of my friends triggered multiple sclerosis when his mother developed a cancer, he was very shocked.

By the way, bifidobacterium is used to fatten pigs, so I would not recommend to fill yourself with yogurt.

Re:Not really new (1)

javelinco (652113) | about 7 months ago | (#46307055)

There is no way to identify when MS was "triggered" - so if your friend was told his mother developing cancer "triggered" his MS, I'd suggest he consult another doctor. MS is hard enough to diagnose as it is - MRI's, multiple symptoms, and often a spinal tap are used to diagnosis it, and most experts would say that there is no certainty even at that point.

Re:Not really new (1)

eulernet (1132389) | about 7 months ago | (#46307645)

He developed MS more than 15 years ago, we lost sight 10 years ago (he had difficulties walking), life expectance was not very long.

Re:Not really new (1)

javelinco (652113) | about 7 months ago | (#46309079)

I am truly sorry to hear that.

Re:Not really new (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 7 months ago | (#46307457)

There is some preliminary mechanistic evidence, and quite a bit of epidemiological evidence, that the gut microbiome is involved in autoimmune diseases, including MS. There is no evidence that gut bacteria migrating to the brain has anything to do with it, and considerable evidence that this is not the case. The specific causes of MS and other autoimmune diseases are unknown and probably very diverse. It's highly unlikely that a single event such as the stress of a loved one getting sick "trigger" them.

Pigs are fattened with food of all kinds. Should people stop eating food?

Re:Not really new (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 7 months ago | (#46307865)

Regarding MS specifically, there's a physician in Italy who is claiming ~85% remission of MS after brain veinous intervention. He has some theory about excess iron in the nervous system, but even if that's not right, if the vein blockage is causative there's still something causing that (which could be autoimmune mediated).

Autism and digestive issues (1)

MillerHighLife21 (876240) | about 7 months ago | (#46307003)

Considering that children with autism almost always have major digestive issues and will usually see dramatic behavioral improvement by moving to a strict gluten free, casein free diet that does not surprise me in the slightest. I will be very interested to hear what comes of this.

Re:Autism and digestive issues (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | about 7 months ago | (#46308675)

Considering that children with autism almost always have major digestive issues and will usually see dramatic behavioral improvement by moving to a strict gluten free, casein free diet

You're exaggerating a bit. Digestive issues (and food allergies) are common in autistic people, but not "almost always". Often they're not severe problems either. As for the restricted diet, it does work for some, and it's certainly something worth trying for an autistic person, but it doesn't have any effect on most of them.

This is why I try not to eat pesticides. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46307069)

Roundup cereals may not be harmful to animal cells, but most of the cells in your body aren't animal cells. There's a lot of research coming down the pike that will force a lot of people to reassess the dangers of GMOs.

Obviously (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 7 months ago | (#46307283)

> "His team is now embarking on human trials, to see if healthy volunteers can have their
> cognitive abilities enhanced or modulated by tweaking the gut microbiome"

Fuck that shit, my IQ is already 150. I volunteer as tribute to see if it reduces stress, with associated intra-abdominal belly fat deposition and associated metabolic syndrome issues!

Re:Obviously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46309021)

Only 150? I'd be afraid to admit it :P

Maybe they were just feeling sick? (2)

Marrow (195242) | about 7 months ago | (#46307337)

When my gut is in an uproar, I don't have patience for mazes and puzzles either. Maybe they were just feeling sick. Add stress, and the feeling magnifies.

Children with Autism (1)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | about 7 months ago | (#46307623)

" It seems the flora in your intestines can influence brain development as well as aspects of health and nutrition" Would this mean that its possible to develop a diet that helps treat those with mental disabilities?

Re:Children with Autism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46308471)

You mean like this? http://gaps.me/ [gaps.me]
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