Gut Bacteria Prevalent In Type 2 Diabetes
September 27, 2012

More Gut Bacteria Found In Patients With Type 2 Diabetes

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Bacteria are everywhere. They not only reside in the outside world, but they also live inside the human body. A recent study by scientists found that there are 1.5 kilograms of bacteria in the intestine, affecting individuals´ heath and wellbeing. The team recently revealed that they had made progress in a metagenomic study targeting the human gut microbiota; they believe that the results could determine whether an individual has type 2 diabetes and eventually affect treatments for the disease.

According to researchers from the University of Copenhagen and the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), bacteria usually reside in a sensitive equilibrium, but the balance could be reversed if an individual´s health changes. People with type 2 diabetes were found to have a more intense bacterial environment in the intestines than those who didn´t have the illness. The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature.

"We have demonstrated that people with type 2 diabetes have a high level of pathogens in their intestines," remarked Jun Wang, a professor from the University of Copenhagen's Department of Biology and Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, in a prepared statement.

The scientists believe that the study allows for more understanding on the traits of gut microbiota and their relationship with diabetes. According to BGI, type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that affects people all around the world. It is also an illness that is affected by varying environmental and genetic factors. As such, treatments need to be developed to help alleviate the impact and to possibly cure the disease in the future.

"Gut microbiota has been widely considered as an important contributor to many kinds of chronic disease, like type 2 diabetes. However, it is still unclear on what and how exactly these commensal microbes contribute to human health,” explained Junjie Qin, the study´s primary investigator at BGI, in a prepared statement. “BGI, with a great power for conducting such a large-scale and in-depth studies, will continue to develop more sophisticated tools, collect a larger amount of scientific evidence, and better exploit the industrial/clinical potential in this field than has been done before.”

In the study, the team of investigators utilized shotgun sequencing and created a protocol in conducting a metagenome-wide association study (MGWAS) that was later used in MGWAS analysis to determine metagenomic markers that were related to type 2 diabetes. There were 345 Chinese participants in the study, 171 of which had diabetes, and the scientists found about 50,000 markers related to type 2 diabetes that could help in further studying the disease.

Furthermore, researchers created the metagenomic linkage group (MLG) that could help organize the metagenomic data in a new taxonomic structure. They believe that MLG allows for species-level information to be gathered for mobile genetic elements and unknown species. The findings of the study showed that healthy individuals usually had a higher amount of bacteria that produced butyrate, which could help protect the body from various diseases. In the patients with type 2 diabetes, there were more opportunistic pathogens that were harmful for the body.

"As the human's 'second genome', the gut microbiome has a tight relationship with human health. High-throughput sequencing technologies and Metagenomics serve as robust tools for researchers to comprehensively explore the gut microbiota related with diseases, and shed new light into disease prevention and treatment. I believe the epoch of personalized medicine based on gut microbiome is not far away,” commented Wang, who also serves as executive director of BGI, in the statement.

Another study in Denmark also looked at the bacteria in the gut. The Danish researchers studied individuals with type 2 diabetes who had an imbalance in the bacteria composition of their intestines. In future studies, they plan to look at whether there is an imbalance of bacteria in those who are at risk for type 2 diabetes.

"We are going to transplant gut bacteria from people that suffer from type 2 diabetes into mice and examine whether the mice then develop diabetes,” remarked Oluf Borbye Pedersen, a professor from the University of Copenhagen, in the statement.

Lastly, the scientists from China and Denmark have a collaborative project in investigating gut bacteria. With MetaHIT, a European Union research project, they have found over 3.3. million genes of bacteria in the intestines of people in Spain and Denmark. The researchers believe that the discovery will be helpful in the international research done on the links between intestinal bacteria and health.

"The European and Chinese working on the MetaHIT project were able to make important new discoveries about the relationship between intestinal bacteria and health. The new discovery indicates a possible connection between type 2 diabetes and the intestinal bacteria in Chinese people," concluded Karsten Kristiansen, a professor from the Department of Biology at the University of Copenhagen, in the statement." It is important to point out that our discovery demonstrates a correlation. The big question now is whether the changes in gut bacteria can affect the development of type 2 diabetes or whether the changes simply reflect that the person is suffering from type 2 diabetes."