Study reveals how families share microbes, even with dogs

Apr 22, 2013

A study that began during the post-doctoral work of Northern Arizona University's Gregory Caporaso is shedding some light on how adults, and their dogs and kids, share microbial communities.

And while you can try to blame your spring cold on the youngster of the house, it's actually the family dog that contributes more to adults sharing their microbiomes with one another.

"What we've been learning is the that live in and on our bodies can play a big role in our health," said Caporaso, assistant professor of biology. "What was exciting about this study was how cohabitation affected microbial communities. It's a unique data set."

We all have bacteria in our , but Caporaso explained that while any two humans are 99 percent identical in their genomes, their "gut communities" of bacteria may be up to 50 percent different. It's those differences that interest researchers, who seek to link them to the origins of obesity, or even .

"What factors are driving the differences between the microbial communities in my gut and your gut? This study was an attempt to see if who you're living with is one of the factors," Caporaso said.

As it turns out, individuals from the same household—particularly couples—share more of their microbiome than they do with other individuals, and having a dog resulted in even a greater similarity because of shared contact with the animal.

For the study, published in eLIFE, Caporaso assisted with data analysis and offered advice for statistical approaches. The senior author, associate professor Rob Knight of the University of Colorado Boulder, was Caporaso's post-doctoral adviser.

At NAU, Caporaso's lab develops an open-source software package that is a leader in the field for studying microbial communities.

"A lot of these studies are enabled by our advances in DNA sequencing," Caporaso said. "Bioinformatics techniques enable the analysis of the massive quantities of data typically involved in these studies."

Explore further: Micro fingers for arranging single cells

Related Stories

You are not what you eat

Nov 16, 2010

The types of gut bacteria that populate the guts of primates depend on the species of the host as well as where the host lives and what they eat. A study led by Howard Ochman at Yale University examines the gut microbial ...

Recommended for you

Micro fingers for arranging single cells

Apr 24, 2015

Functional analysis of a cell, which is the fundamental unit of life, is important for gaining new insights into medical and pharmaceutical fields. For efficiently studying cell functions, it is essential ...

Detailed structure of human ribosome revealed

Apr 24, 2015

A team at the Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire (IGBMC - CNRS/Université de Strasbourg/Inserm) has evidenced, at the atomic scale, the three-dimensional structure of the complete ...

How to kill a protein

Apr 24, 2015

For decades scientists have been looking closely at how our cells make proteins. But the inverse is equally important: how cells kill them.

How RNA machinery navigates our genomic obstacle course

Apr 24, 2015

Once upon a time, scientists thought RNA polymerase—the molecule that kicks off protein synthesis by transcribing DNA into RNA—worked like a wind-up toy: Set it down at a start site in our DNA and it ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.