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Microbiome Change Points

Within the gut microbiome, researchers from Finland and the Netherlands found that there are groups of bacteria that are present in bistable abundance distributions, as they report in Nature Communications this week.

Through a deep phylogenetic analysis, Willem de Vos from the University of Helsinki and Wageningen University and his colleagues say that these bacteria are either abundant or absent in most people and are linked to host factors like age, gender, and being overweight.

The intermediate abundance range shows lower temporal stability and may represent tipping elements, the researchers say, and could be exploited to reset the state of the gut and possibly help deal with certain health issues.

This study, Joseph Petrosino from Baylor College of Medicine tells the Los Angeles Times, provides "provocative information about the potential to use these as signatures to take a quick look at your microbiome and perhaps intervene to affect health."

"I do think it is an excellent example of microbiome analyses aimed at identifying keystone organisms whose fluctuations and abundances may be reflective of specific states of health or disease predisposition," adds Petrosino, who was not involved in the study.