Comparing the Gut Microbiome of Different African Populations

Lifestyle patterns of the BaAka and Bantu

Investigations into the gut microbiome continue to reveal how the collections of microorganisms in the digestive system affect human health. Studies have shown that various lifestyle factors can have an influence on the gut microbiome. It seems that a Western-style diet can reduce the diversity of microorganisms in the gut, and researchers are studying the implications for our health.

MSI Principal Investigator Ran Blekhman, postdoctoral associate Andres Gomez, and members of the Blekhman Lab were part of an international team that recently studied the gut microbiomes of two central African populations with different lifestyles. One population was the BaAka people (also known as “BaAka pygmies”), a traditional hunter-gatherer society, and the other was the Bantu, who have an agrarian lifestyle. Both groups live in the Central African Republic. The researchers also compared the results from the African populations to those of the US population, using data from the Human Microbiome Project. The results show that the Bantu group inhabits a middle ground between the BaAka and US American populations for many of the features of the three microbiomes. The paper was published recently in the in the journal Cell Reports and can be found on the journal’s website: A Gomez, KJ Petrzelkova, MB Burns, CJ Yeoman, KR Amato, et al. 2016. Gut Microbiome of Coexisting BaAka Pygmies and Bantu Reflects Gradients of Traditional Subsistence Patterns. Cell Reports 14(9): 2142-2153.

Assistant Professor Blekhman is a faculty member in the Departments of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Development and Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior (see the Blekhman Lab website). His lab studies how cancer patient genomes, tumor genomes, and the microbiome interact to result in disease onset and evolution, and uses MSI for analyses of large genomic and metagenomic datasets. Lead author Dr. Andres Gomez and co-authors Dr. Michael Burns and Dr. Elise Morton (all post-doctoral associates) are members of the Blekhman MSI research group. A Research Spotlight about related work by the Blekhman lab and other MSI PIs was featured on the MSI website in September 2015

Image description: Lifestyle Patterns of the BaAka and Bantu in the Dzanga Sector, Central African Republic. (A) BaAka family in their traditional village hut. (B) Gozo, bitter manioc root (top) and Koko leaves (bottom) (Gnetum africanum) in peanut sauce, two staple foods in the BaAka diet. (C) BaAka adult women and children prepare to process a blue duiker (Philantomba monticola) after a net hunt. (D) Traditional Bantu village. (E and F) Bantu market at which agricultural products are sold. Image (modified) and description from A Gomez et al. Cell Reports 14(9): 2142-2153 (2016).

posted on April 20, 2016

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