Probiotics and ageing: DNA sequencing shows how bacteria evolves from birth to centenarians

By Millette Burgos

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gut flora

Researchers highlighted how gut microbiota differed greatly among infants,adults and the elderly. ©iStock
Researchers highlighted how gut microbiota differed greatly among infants,adults and the elderly. ©iStock
How gut microbiota composition changes with age has been charted using state-of- the-art DNA sequencing in Japan, revealing which strains are most prevalent at different stages of life.

Using new technology, researchers from the Next Generation Science Institute at Morinaga Milk Industry in Japan were able to determine a more comprehensive picture of a bacteria’s typical pattern of evolution in the gut as one ages.

They were able to conclude that age plays a greater role in the make-up of microbiota than individual differences.

“Our results indicate some patterns and transition points in gut microbiota composition with age. The gut microbiota in subjects younger than 20 years changed with age as it matured, and that of subjects older than 70 years changed again,”​ they wrote in BMC Microbiology.

“By analysing an enormous number of microbiota from healthy populations in every age group, our findings could enable future research to identify the healthy gut microbiota composition in each life stage.”

There findings revealed a pattern of sequential changes in gut microbiota by age, as shown for example, by how much of the four dominant bacterial phyla found in the human gut – namely, firmicutes, bacteroidetes, actinobacteria and proteobacteriam would increase or decrease with age.

Actinobacteria, including Bifidobacteria — the predominant bacteria in infants — declined rapidly after weaning, and decreased even further after age 60.

The study also showed the predominance of the proteobacteria, such as Escherichia coli, in infants and the elderly.

Firmicutes, the most predominant phylum after weaning, was less abundant in children below four years old, compared with children who are older.

The increase of both bacteroidetes and proteobacteriain subjects over 70 years old, was also observed.

Cluster analysis

Researchers also noted that gut microbiota differed greatly among Infants, adults and the elderly.

“When subjects with similar gut microbiota composition are grouped together (clustering), distinct groups are formed according to broad age groups. This indicates that age-related differences in gut microbiota are greater than individual differences,”​ they wrote.

However, 16% of elderly subjects were found to have different gut microbiota composition compared with most from their age group. The researchers classified them as “elderly 1”​ to differentiate from the rest of the elderly subjects who showed gut microbiota composition according to their age range.

Researchers added they needed to further study the significance of elderly 1’s different gut microbiota composition.

Meanwhile, Bifidobacterium longum, another beneficial probiotic bacteria registered the highest detection rate in most of the guts analysed in the study, regardless of age.

“B. longum was widely detected in most individuals, from nursing infants to centenarians. Its detection rate was the highest among all investigated species — 88.1% — highlighting its importance to human health,”​ researchers said.

The study pointed out that B. longum is one of the most versatile among microbiota species.

“B. longum was shown to be genetically suitable to ferment both plant-derived and human milk oligosaccharide derived sugar. This characteristic could explain why B. longum is the most widespread species at all ages,”​ the researchers wrote.

They added they hoped their findings would be taken on and used in future research.

“Further analyses investigating lifestyle traits or prospective cohorts focused on subjects who appear to have a gut microbiota typical of an age group older than their matched age would be valuable for revealing the relationships between gut microbiota and host health, including the aging process,"​ they added.


Source: BMC Microbiology

DOI 10.1186/s12866-016-0708-5

“Age-related changes in gut microbiota composition from new born to centenarian: a cross-sectional study”

Authors: Toshitaka Odamaki, Kumiko Kato et al​.

Probiota Asia 2017​ 

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The Probiota series is growing, and in October 2017, Singapore will host the first ever Probiota Asia event. Building on the success of the annual global Probiota and Probiota Americas events, Probiota Asia will focus exclusively on this high growth market and the challenges it faces.

Save the date: 11-13 October 2017

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