Science and Nature

Study finds variation in gut bacterial compositions between Indian and Western populations

Study finds variation in gut bacterial compositions between Indian and Western populations thumbnail

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Bhopal have found the differences in gut bacterial compositions between Indian and Western populations arising due to different diet patterns.

The research conducted in collaboration with a team from South Dakota University in the US has also elucidated the relationship between gut bacteria and inflammatory diseases such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). These variations arise from the differences in the diet patterns in these two regions – the Indian diet being richer in carbohydrates and fibre than the Western.

The study has been published in Biofilms and Microbiomes.

The human gut contains 300-500 types of bacteria that are necessary for survival. These bacteria help in digestion, protect from infections and even produce essential vitamins and neurochemicals.

In 2011, German scientists classified human beings into three “enterotypes” depending on the kind of bacteria that dominates the gut – Prevotella, Bacteroides or Ruminococcus.

“Most enterotype studies are largely based on the western population and have not correlated the type of dominant gut bacteria with the type of diet. In the largest gut metagenome study from India, our team studied the bacterial profile of 200 gut samples taken from people from several Indian locations – Madhya Pradesh, Delhi-NCR, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, Bihar, and Kerala,” said Vineet K Sharma, associate professor, Department of Biological Sciences, IISER Bhopal.

The researchers found that the Indian gut microbiome has the highest abundance of the Prevotella genus of bacteria. This bacterium also dominates the guts of other populations that consume a carbohydrate-and fibre-rich diet, such as the Italian, Madagascarian, Peruvian, and Tanzanian. The gut microbiomes of people from Western countries like the USA are dominated by Bacteroides.

“This is a pioneering study that investigates the role of Prevotella species on human health in different populations, and reveals the significance in the metabolism of complex polysaccharides and dietary fibres in non-western populations,” Sharma explained.

Talking about the practical implications of his work, he said, “Our insights would help in the development of new probiotics and prebiotics for different health-related conditions associated with the gut which is much needed for non-western populations.”

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