Publications

07-Jan-2021

Li W, Nelson KE

Microbial Species that Initially Colonize the Human Gut at Birth or in Early Childhood Can Stay in Human Body for Lifetime.

Microbial ecology. 2021-01-07;

In recent years, many studies have described the composition and function of the human microbiome at different body sites and suggested a role for the microbiome in various diseases and health conditions. Some studies, using longitudinal samples, have also suggested how the microbiome changes over time due to disease, diet, development, travel, and other environmental factors. However, to date, no study has demonstrated whether the microorganisms established at birth or in early childhood, either transmitted from parents or obtained from the environment, can stay in the human body until adult or senior age. To directly answer this question is difficult, because microbiome samples at childhood and at later adulthood for the same individual will need to be compared and the field is not old enough to have allowed for that type of sample collection. Here, using a metagenomic approach, we analyzed 1004 gut microbiome samples from senior adults (65 ± 7.8 years) from the TwinsUK cohort. Our data indicate that many species in the human gut acquired in early childhood can stay for a lifetime until senior ages. We identified the rare genomic variants (single nucleotide variation and indels) for 27 prevalent species with enough sequencing coverage for confident genomic variant identification. We found that for some species, twin pairs, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, share significantly more rare variants than unrelated subject pairs. But no significant difference is found between MZ and DZ twin pairs. These observations strongly suggest that these species acquired in early childhood remained in these persons until senior adulthood.

PMID: 33410935