Microbiomania: what we actually know about the human microbiome

Posted by: | May 23, 2018 | Comments

Microbiomania: what we actually know about the human microbiome

Lance Armstrong may not have tried it, but poo doping is the new item of discussion on the performance enhancement menu.

It turns out elite cyclists have a couple of critters in their gut that might boost performance.

The discovery began three years ago, when Lauren Petersen, a researcher at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, in Connecticut, gave herself a poo transplant. She wiped out many of her own gut microbes with antibiotics and introduced into her bowel a tiny amount of faecal matter from a competitive cyclist.

She was trying to treat the Lyme’s disease she’d had since the age of 11. Petersen happened to be a keen mountain biker and a few months later she was able to increase her training and began winning races.

The experience led her to study elite cyclists’ faeces, which showed they were more likely to have a rare micro-organism called Prevotella, which helps with muscle recovery, and M. smithii, which helps turn food into energy more efficiently. Her transplant sample contained both those microbes.

When she published her work last year, the potential of poo doping became big news, although some noted that science doesn’t always smell as good as it looks.

Faecal transplantation is in its infancy. While we don’t quite know what is being transplanted, we do know the outcomes are not always desirable. Last year, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians Congress in Melbourne was told there was evidence to suggest transplants could cause some patients to take on the physical and mental traits of their donors, such as body shape and depression.

Read more at: UNSW Sydney Newsroom

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