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Research Department of Genetics
University Medical Center Groningen

Cell paper on gut microbiome stability over time

09 April 2021

A new study led by departmental researchers Prof. J. Fu and Prof. A. Zhernakova has been published in the prestigious journal Cell. "The long-term genetic stability and individual specificity of the human gut microbiome" by Chen et al. investigates the long-term stability of the gut microbiome in LifeLines Deep participants by comparing gut microbial composition and genetic makeup in fecal samples from the same individuals taken 4-years apart. This study reveals several novel aspects of gut microbial stability that have clinical implications for personalized medicine.

Study results show that a rich and diverse gut microbial community seems to be more stable over time. The researchers also found that the genetic makeup of some species is very different between different individuals and can be stable over time. Based on this information, the team could classify microbial samples from the same individuals with 82-95% accuracy, even after 4 years. In contrast, other gut microbial species showed dynamic changes in their abundance and genetic makeup between the two timepoints. Microbial changes over time can contribute to phenotypic development through metabolites, especially microbiome-derived metabolites such as vitamin B and uremic toxins. This changeable component of the microbiome may be modifiable, providing a potential route for altering phenotypes in the future. Finally, the study raised some concerns about antibiotic usage in animal husbandry, which may be contributing to the spread of microbial antibiotic resistance in humans through meat consumption.

For more information see the story on the UMCG research website and the original article at

Last modified:09 April 2021 3.26 p.m.

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