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Gut Microbiome is the total microbial population living in your intestines. There are millions of bacteria that lives in the inner walls of our intestines. These bacteria are either beneficial or harmful. Beneficial bacteria are important for normal healthy functioning of gut; however, harmful pathogenic bacteria produces a variety of non-favorable conditions inside gut which affects various diseases. An assessment of this beneficial to harmful bacteria in human gut is Gut Microbial Identification. Clinical Gut Microbiome test is the identification of harmful bacteria that affect clinical management of a disease.
Gut Microbiome Test is done by taking a stool sample and processing it by Next Generation Sequencing. Then Bioinformatics analysis is done to identify all bacterial species present in the intestines of the patient. This data is then matched with a reference data to screen potential functions of bacteria identified. A classification is made beneficial and potentially harmful or harmful bacteria.
Role of Gut Microbiome
Gut Microbiome is an indispensable part of our body. The bacteria present in our gut perform many functions for us which are not possible by human body. Some of these functions are:
Perhaps the most important of Gut Microbiome is its help in metabolism. The Gut bacteria can produce vitamins, synthesize amino acids, provides pathway for non digestible carbohydrates etc. Their activity results in re-absorption of energy and essential nutrients from sources not digestible by human body. (ref)
Immunity and Defense:
Gut Bacteria has been shown to inhibit the growth of pathogens inside the intestines. It is of understanding that gut bacteria produces anti-microbial substances and compete for food and space thereby inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Gut bacteria also activates the host immune system to protect and produce defense against pathogenic bacteria (ref)
Gut Microbiome and Diseases:
Many researchers are trying to understand the role of gut Microbiome in various diseases and the diseases list is growing at a steady rate. Although not all the reports are reliable or concrete proof is available yet for most of the diseases, a few of them has been well established. Irritable bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)(ref.1, ref. 2) have been found to be affected by the bacteria living inside our gut. Imbalance in Gut Microbiota elevates inflammation and improper metabolism resulting from growth of pathogenic bacteria.
Colorectal Cancer is one other important disease that has seen rise of Gut Microbiome Identification studies to understand the damaging role of various pathogenic bacteria. A few bacteria have been identified which causes damage to intestines and lead to DNA damage. These bacteria have also been implicated in slowing down metabolism of certain anti-cancer drugs, thereby reducing the efficiency of cancer treatment (ref). Other bacteria are known to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancers.
What are the future prospects?
In India, more than a million patients are identified with IBD, IBS, Colo-rectal cancer and other intestinal disorders, annually. (ref) Gut Microbiome Identification can be a promising supportive care to improve the disease management. It will also help in developing biomarkers for identification of non-invasive disease screening. However, there is still a long way to go before this technology is useful in routine testing.
The data available so far shows promise in management of important diseases by treating for bacterial populations simultaneously along with routine medications. Use of probiotics and drugs targeting pathogenic bacteria seem to reduce disease symptoms and increase efficiency of treatments.
However, the data available till today is not sufficient for clinical diagnostics utility of Gut Microbiome Identification. Also there is a vast difference between lifestyle, eating habits, environmental effects and genetics of the populations living in India and other countries. There is an urgent need of a database which can precisely predict the effect of Gut Microbiome in Indian Population.
Few public institutions and private companies have started identifying the need to invest in research for Gut Microbiome identification. Department of Biotechnology, Rajiv Gandhi Center for Microbiology, Gut Microbiota and Probiotic Science Foundation (India), YSS Lab, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, Translational Heath Sciences Research Institute etc. are some of the key players involved in Gut Microbiome Research. Leucine Rich Bio and Redcliffe Life Sciences are probably the first Indian private sector companies for provide Gut Microbiome Identification for clinical and research segment.
Pharma Companies can also be part of this segment. They can involve Gut Microbiome Identification during clinical trials to understand the effect of various drugs in absence and presence of certain bacteria. This will help in generating more promising data and better understanding of interaction between gut and medicines. It will help doctors to use more relevant medicine or probiotic options, along with currently existing IBD, IBS or Colorectal drugs available in market.
Currently Gut Microbiome Identification is done by Next Generation Sequencing. However, it is a costly method and need new strategies to reduce the price and make it cost effective. Better government policies and interest of large level key government players will boost process to move it out from research to clinics.
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