Analyzing the genetic makeup of bacteria in the human gut, the team has successfully linked groups of bacterial genes, or "genetic signatures," to multiple diseases.
The work brings scientists closer to developing tests that could predict disease risk or identify disease presence based on a sampling of the genetic makeup of a person's microbiome.
The findings, to be published May 18 in Nature Communications, link sets of bacterial genes to the presence of coronary artery disease, cirrhosis of the liver, inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes. The analysis indicates that three of these conditions—coronary artery disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver cirrhosis—share many of the same bacterial genes. In other words, people whose guts harbor these bacterial genes seem more likely to have one or more of these three conditions.
The work represents a significant advance in the current understanding of the relationship between microbes residing in the human gut and specific diseases, the team said. If confirmed through further research, the results could inform the design of tools that could gauge a person's risk for a range of conditions based on analysis of a single fecal sample, they added.
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