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Warning: Current Ecological Microbiome May Be on the Verge of Disaster Due to Antibiotics

Mar 21, 2017 12:05 PM EDT
African Tribe
A research reveals that East African tribes may be stronger in fighting diseases than Westerners. The culprit? Using antibiotics and less direct contact to microbiomes and food sources.
(Photo : Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

A researcher's work on East African tribes showed what appears to be "warning signs" as humanity reaches the Anthropocene epoch. In a piece by Jeff Leach on Science Alert, he says there is an impending crisis on the relationship between humanity and the ecological microbiome.

Leach, a researcher from King's College London, said this relationship is important because diseases are often the result of a fall in microbial diversity. Unfortunately, the exact relationship between the two are not certain yet.

Leach said that hunters in East African villages use up everything they catch. When they catch a baboon, organs (even the brain) are consumed along with the stomach and the colon, which are often discarded parts in the West.

He noted that this exchange of microbes between the group and the environment is important to ensure a society's survival. This is because these microbes are being "transferred" from one species to the next, exposing humans -- in this case, East African tribes -- to an extensive list of microbes that can help them survive the onslaught of diseases.

The West, on the other hand, has a lessened species pool due to the increase of "filters" that hinder the interaction between microbes and humans. Some of these filters are diet and overusage of microbiotics.

Leach emphasized that it's important to understand that even before antibiotics were introduced, the diversity of microbes around nature and our body have been important aspects of survival. Humanity's relationship with the environment is a heavy emphasis of the Anthropocene epoch, a geological era where human activity will dominate the environment.

A study, published in the journal Cell, concludes that a fall of microbial diversity may, in fact, lead to diseases. Unfortunately, not much is known if the loss of microbial diversity is the cause or the effect of the occurrence of diseases.

Leach highlited that the traditions of the Hadza, one of the East African tribes, influence their exposure to various microbes because they actively engage in physical contact with their food souces.

"It is their persistent exposure to this rich pool of microorganisms that has endowed the Hadza with an extraordinary diversity of microbes; much greater than we see among people in the so-called developed world," Leach added.

He noted that there is much to be researched on the subject matter and they cannot form a conclusion yet. Regardless, this may be the time for experts in the medical field to take a look at the potential benefits of exposing modern-day humans to microorganisms given the arrival of evolving viruses and superbugs.

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