Washington DC: The bacterial communities that live inside everyone are quite similar and stable during happy times, but when stress enters the equation, those communities can react differently in every person, finds a recent study.
Researchers from Oregon State University in Corvallis, U.S. suggested that has key implications for a more personalised approach to antibiotic therapy, management of chronic diseases and other aspects of medical care.
"When microbiologists have looked at how microbiomes - a microorganism, especially a bacterium causing disease or fermentation - change when their hosts are stressed from any number of factors - -temperature, smoking, diabetes, for example -- they've tended to assume directional and predictive changes in the community," said corresponding author Rebecca Vega Thurber.
It turns out that this observation also applies to perturbed microbiotas of humans and animals.
Lead author Jesse Zaneveld of the University of Washington-Bothell collaborated with Vega Thurber and her student, Ryan McMinds, to survey the literature on microbial changes caused by perturbation.
"When healthy, our microbiomes look alike, but when stressed each one of us has our own microbial snowflake," she said.
The team explained that when two people put under the same stress, and their microbiomes will respond in different ways - that's a very important facet to consider for managing approaches to personalized medicine.
Stressors like antibiotics or diabetes can cause different people's microbiomes to react in very different ways.
Humans and animals are filled with symbiotic communities of micro-organisms that often fill key roles in normal physiological function and also influence susceptibility to disease.
Predicting how these communities of organisms respond to perturbations -- anything that alters the systems' function -- is one of microbiologists' essential challenges.
Studies of microbiome dynamics have typically looked for patterns that shift microbiomes from a healthy stable state to a dysbiotic stable state; dysbiosis refers to the microbial communities being out of their natural balance, which can result in the interruption of basic biological functions for the host person or animal.
The findings are published in journal of Nature Microbiology.