The lost world in your gut


By Andy Coghlan in Chicago THREE-QUARTERS of the bacterial species living in our intestines have never been identified. Antonia Suau of the Jouy-en-Josas laboratory of INRA, the French agricultural research organisation, studied an elderly man’s faeces. With help from fellow researchers at the University of Reading, she analysed the samples with a DNA probe that recognised variants of the gene for 16S RNA, a bacterial nucleic acid involved in the manufacture of proteins. When the researchers sequenced these genes, 20 came from known species. But there were 78 other variants that couldn’t be identified. “Now we know they’re here, we can try to isolate them,” says Suau. It’s possible that some of the bacteria could cause disease, but Suau expects that the vast majority will be harmless passengers. More on these topics:
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