A specific class of bacteria in the intestinal flora prevents mice from becoming obese, according to research from the University of Utah that could indicate a form of weight control in humans.
"Now that we have found the bacteria responsible for this slimming effect, we could really understand what microorganisms do and if they have therapeutic value," said June Round, a pathology professor who led the study published this week in the journal Science.
Over the last century, obesity and metabolic syndrome – a set of simultaneous disorders that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes – have become a global epidemic, the study said.
There are currently more than 1.9 billion obese people in the world and numerous studies have pointed out the role of the regulation of the immunity system in metabolic disease.
The human body contains about 100 billion microorganisms, mainly in the digestive tract, including a thousand different species of bacteria that comprise more than 3 million genes.
In healthy conditions these bacteria fulfill vital functions such as intervention in gene expression and disease prevention, and scientists have determined their key role in the regulation of mammalian metabolism.
The study found that healthy mice have abundant clostridia in their intestinal flora, a class that comprises 20 to 30 bacteria, while mice with an immune system deficiency lose these microbes as they age.
Even when they were given a healthy diet, these mice became obese, but when they were introduced with Clostridia class bacteria the animals remained thin.
"These bacteria have evolved to live with us and benefit us," said Charisse Petersen, who was studying for a doctorate when he collaborated in the study.
"We have a lot to learn from them."
Round noted that other research has found that obese people suffer from a lack of clostridia, and there are indications that obese people or with type 2 diabetes may have a poor immune response.
The researchers hope that these connections will give way to new ways to prevent and treat health problems that are very common.
"We find a relatively unexplored aspect of type 2 diabetes and obesity," Round said. "This work," he added, "leads us to further research on how the immunity response regulates microbiota and metabolic disease."
. (tagsToTranslate) Bacteria (t) intestinal flora (t) (t) protect (t) obesity