Neanderthal Poop Shows Clues to Humans’ Microbiome

By Cara Murez

HealthDay reporter

TUESDAY, February 9, 2021 (HealthDay News) – What can the poo of ancient Neanderthals tell us?

It turns out that it contains valuable information about modern gut health.

An international research group led by the University of Bologna in Italy analyzed ancient DNA samples extracted from 50,000-year-old sedimentary feces, the oldest fecal sample available. They collected the material in El Salt (Spain), a site where many Neanderthals lived.

Researchers found that the gut microbiota of Neanderthals contained beneficial microorganisms that are also found in the intestines of modern humans.

Research suggests that there are ancestral components of the human microbiota that have lived in the gastrointestinal tract for a very long time – at least 700,000 years ago – when the separation of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals occurred.

In their analysis, the researchers discovered many similarities between the ancient and modern microbiota. A new scientific field called paleomicrobiology has enabled this research. This field studies ancient microorganisms from archaeological remains through DNA sequencing.

“These results allow us to understand which components of the human gut microbiota are essential for our health, as they are an integral part of our biology also from an evolutionary point of view,” said study coordinator Marco Candela. He is professor in the department of pharmacy and biotechnology at the University of Bologna.

“Nowadays, there is a gradual reduction in the diversity of our microbiota due to the context of our modern life: the results of this research group could guide us in the design of solutions adapted to the diet and the way of life. life to counter this phenomenon, ”Candela said in a college press release.

The gut microbiota is a collection of trillions of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract that regulate your metabolism and immune system and protect you from pathogenic microorganisms.

Recent studies have shown that the consumption of processed foods, drug use and living in hyper-disinfected environments can lead to a critical reduction in the micro-biodiversity of the gut microbiota, including the loss of known microorganisms. as “old friends,” noted the study’s authors.

According to study lead author Simone Rampelli, a researcher at the University of Bologna, “The process of gut microbiota depletion in modern Western urban populations could represent a major wake-up call. This depletion process would become particularly alarming if it involved the loss of those components of the microbiota that are essential to our physiology. ”

Continued

Alarming signs are an increase in chronic inflammatory diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.

Candela said: “In the current modernization scenario, in which there is a gradual reduction in microbiota diversity, this information could guide integrated diet and lifestyle strategies to protect the microorganisms that are essential to our health. To this end, promoting lifestyles that are sustainable for our gut microbiota is of the utmost importance, as it will help maintain configurations compatible with our biology. “

The research was published online Feb.5 in the journal Communication biology.

More information

Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests five ways to promote gut health.

SOURCE: University of Bologna, press release, February 5, 2021

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