The diversity of rural African populations extends to their microbiomes | 1/21/2019 | Staff
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Our microbiome, the complex community of bacteria, fungi, parasites, and other microorganisms in and on our bodies, reflects the way we live. If we own a pet, we likely share microbes with them. If we eat meat, the microbiome in our intestines may look different from that of a vegan.

In a growing field of study to determine how we acquire the microbes we carry within us and their influence on our health, most analyses have focused on people living in developed nations. But in the last several years, scientists have begun to investigate whether people in non-industrialized societies possess distinctly different microbiomes and, if so, what factors shape those differences.

Report - Journal - Genome - Biology - Strides

A new report, published in the journal Genome Biology, has made significant strides in addressing these questions. Led by a team of geneticists from the University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with researchers from Tanzania, Botswana, and the National Institutes of Health, the study is one of the largest to date to analyze the gut microbiomes of ethnically diverse Africans, with samples from 114 Botswanan and Tanzanian people from seven populations, as well as a comparison group from the United States.

The results point to the wide range of microbiome profiles across populations, which practice a variety of different lifestyles, from agropastoralist to pastoralist to hunter-gatherer. The magnitude of the differences is on par with the differences seen between industrialized and non-industrialed populations. Yet the researchers were also intrigued by unexpected similarities between groups.

Geneticist - Sarah - Tishkoff - Penn - Integrates

"When we started this," says geneticist Sarah Tishkoff, a Penn Integrates Knoweldge Professor at Penn and senior author, "my hypothesis was that diet was going to be the driving factor in distinguishing the microbiome of these diverse populations. My biggest surprise was that that wasn't the case."

In fact, a subset of the samples from Bantu-speaking people living in farming communities...
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