An article that I looked at on the National Geographic website looked specifically at research being done on the Hadza tribe in Tanzania, a group made up of hunter-gatherers. Because this tribe does not grow crops or keep animals, the article discusses that this study allows us to look at this group of people as the closest approximation of what ancestral gut microbiomes may have looked like 10,000 years ago, or before agriculture came around. However, the article is careful to point out that the information received from this tribe is not exactly the same as the ancestral gut, as these people are modern people that likely have access to things that our ancestors didn’t. Along with this, the article notes that, perhaps as expected, the microbiota of the hunter-gatherers were more diverse than the microbiota samples taken from a group of Italians at the same time.
Along with pointing out different portions of this study, I believe that this article also does a good job of bringing up two different points. The first of these points is that the microbiome project as a whole is in need of expanding the research that is being done. It notes that while some small studies are being done on non-Western civilizations (Burkina Faso, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Malawi, and this study in Tanzania), most of the research includes Western, industrialized nations. This lack of diverse research may cause skewing of what our idea of what the microbiome entails. I believe that it is important to consider many different lifestyles when researching the microbiome in order to see the most complete picture of what is going on.
Another interesting thing that this article is sure to point out is that the Hadza microbiome is not necessarily better or worse than our Western microbiomes, but is perhaps just better adapted to the lifestyle that they are living. For example, the article points out that the Hadza guts do not have Bifidobacteria, a bacteria that seems to make up about 10 percent of a Western gut. However, the Hadza gut does seem to contain some members of the Treponema group, certain species of which can cause diseases such as syphilis. As one researcher points out, the presence of this group may be a warning sign for a person in the Western world, but does not seem to cause any issues within this group of people. I believe that these differences go to show how much diversity exists in gut microbiomes across the globe, and why it is important to include samples from groups with many different backgrounds in order to create the best picture of what the microbiome is all about.
Here’s the link to the article: