Archives for posts with tag: gut

Transplanting microbes from the gut of obese humans makes germ-free mice put on weight.

Read the original research in Science.

Eggs from the pig whipworm Trichuris suis (TSO) reduce the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which are both inflammatory bowel diseases – but why? At the moment, no-one is quite clear, but researchers at NYU School of Medicine are starting a clinical trial to try to find out – if you are in the US and want to join, the details about the trial are here. It may be that the parasites change the quantity and type of bacteria that are attached to the intestinal wall.

Hookworms seem to cure allergies – this could be down to the hygiene hypothesis, where life is now so ‘clean’ that the immune system doesn’t have enough to do and attacks the body.

Children brought up with animals, and youngest children in families, are often the least likely to get asthma,  and this may be down to the microbiome (all the bacteria) in the home’s house dust. Mice fed house dust from homes with dogs were more likely to be immune to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) than mice fed with dust from non-dog homes. RSV is a common childhood infection, and children exposed to it are more likely to get asthma.The microbes in their gut were also different.

The hygiene hypothesis suggests that we get more allergies now because our immune systems don’t have enough to do. Hookworms might be able to cure allergies – but a dog is much more fun to take for a walk!

We can taste five main tastes – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (a savory flavor found in soy sauce, tomatoes, and other high-glutamate foods. There are umami taste receptors in the gut as well as on the tongue.

From 20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Taste from Discover Magazine


The human gut is about five metres (around 15 feet) long when you are alive, and up to nine metres (about 30 feet) long after you die (because of the loss of muscle tone).

From 20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Digestion from Discover Magazine

In the Mesozoic era, dinosaurs breaking wind (produced by bacteria in their guts) may have put 520 million tonnes of methane gas into the atmosphere every year. Methane is a greenhouse gas – this could explain why the temperature 150 million years ago was around 10 degrees C higher than it is now.

Read the abstract in Current Biology.

Breastfeeding helps to colonise babies’ guts with healthy bacteria, and this changes how they express the genes for immunity, improving their immune systems. Read the paper in Genome Biology.

black & white picture of  a baby's feet

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