Research Article

Population-level analysis of gut microbiome variation

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Science  29 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6285, pp. 560-564
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3503

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“Normal” for the gut microbiota

For the benefit of future clinical studies, it is critical to establish what constitutes a “normal” gut microbiome, if it exists at all. Through fecal samples and questionnaires, Falony et al. and Zhernakova et al. targeted general populations in Belgium and the Netherlands, respectively. Gut microbiota composition correlated with a range of factors including diet, use of medication, red blood cell counts, fecal chromogranin A, and stool consistency. The data give some hints for possible biomarkers of normal gut communities.

Science, this issue pp. 560 and 565

Abstract

Fecal microbiome variation in the average, healthy population has remained under-investigated. Here, we analyzed two independent, extensively phenotyped cohorts: the Belgian Flemish Gut Flora Project (FGFP; discovery cohort; N = 1106) and the Dutch LifeLines-DEEP study (LLDeep; replication; N = 1135). Integration with global data sets (N combined = 3948) revealed a 14-genera core microbiota, but the 664 identified genera still underexplore total gut diversity. Sixty-nine clinical and questionnaire-based covariates were found associated to microbiota compositional variation with a 92% replication rate. Stool consistency showed the largest effect size, whereas medication explained largest total variance and interacted with other covariate-microbiota associations. Early-life events such as birth mode were not reflected in adult microbiota composition. Finally, we found that proposed disease marker genera associated to host covariates, urging inclusion of the latter in study design.

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