MICROBIOLOGY: A Stomach Full

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Science  27 Jan 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5760, pp. 439b
DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5760.439b

Until hints to the contrary in several recent studies, the stomach was conventionally thought of as being almost as uninhabitable as Mars. Upon analysis of small-subunit 16S ribosomal RNA libraries prepared from endoscopy samples collected from 23 individuals, Bik et al. discovered, living in the human stomach, a zoo of microorganisms of which a significant proportion had been identified previously as residing in the mouth and 10% were previously unsuspected denizens. Indeed, a member of the genus that includes the notoriously radiation-resistant Deinococcus radiodurans was found, perhaps reflecting the tough physicochemical environment of the stomach. Nineteen of the people were found to be positive for Helicobacter pylori but otherwise showed significant variation in their gastric ecosystems. In all, 128 phylotypes were discovered, with Streptococcus and Prevotella spp. being the most abundant after H. pylori. The authors proffer the suggestion that there are multiple ecological niches in the stomach, each with its own demographic, although currently we can only guess at the roles these organisms play in health and disease. — CA

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 103, 732 (2006).

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