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Environment dominates over host genetics in shaping human gut microbiota.

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PubMed ID: 29489753

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Rothschild D, Weissbrod O, Barkan E, Kurilshikov A, Korem T, Zeevi D, Costea PI, Godneva A, Kalka IN, Bar N, Shilo S, Lador D, Vila AV, Zmora N, Pevsner-Fischer M, Israeli D, Kosower N, Malka G, Wolf BC, Avnit-Sagi T, Lotan-Pompan M, Weinberger A, Halpern Z, Carmi S, Fu J, Wijmenga C, Zhernakova A, Elinav E, Segal E

Nature. Feb 2018. doi: 10.1038/nature25973

COMMENT:  This study has found that our microbiome affects nearly every aspect of our health and its microbial composition, which varies from individual to individual, may hold the key to everything from weight gain to moods. While some microbiome research has suggested that this variation begins with differences in our genes, a new large-scale study conducted at the Weizmann Institute of Science challenges this notion, providing evidence that the connection between microbiome and health may be even more important than we thought.   

In this study Rosthschild et al. examine genotype and microbiome data from 1,046 healthy individuals with several distinct ancestral origins who share a relatively common environment, and demonstrate that the gut microbiome is not significantly associated with genetic ancestry, and that host genetics have a minor role in determining microbiome composition. The authors show that, by contrast, there are significant similarities in the compositions of the microbiomes of genetically unrelated individuals who share a household, and that over 20% of the inter-person microbiome variability is associated with factors related to diet, drugs and anthropometric measurements.

They further demonstrate that microbiome data significantly improve the prediction accuracy for many human traits, such as glucose and obesity measures, compared to models that use only host genetic and environmental data. These results suggest that microbiome alterations aimed at improving clinical outcomes may be carried out across diverse genetic backgrounds.

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Javier Velasco