The study’s authors think that ingesting these bacteria might be enough to cause a disturbance to the gut’s delicate microbiome.
This could also allow other conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome to develop.
Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK focused on the bacteria that were able to form spores in the gut.
Spore formation in bacteria is a method of surviving unfavourable conditions.
They found that around one third of a healthy person’s gut microbiota produced spores that could survive outside the host and could well be transferred between human to human.
Microbial transmission via this route raises the possibility that certain bacteria implicated in diseases could be passed, not only genetically but via the microbiome.
“Being able to cast light on this microbial 'Dark matter' has implications for the whole of biology and how we consider health,” said Dr Trevor Lawley, group leader at the Sanger Institute.
“We will be able to isolate the microbes from people with a specific disease, such as infection, cancers or autoimmune diseases, and study these microbes in a mouse model to see what happens.“
Published online ahead of print, DOI: 10.1038/nature17645
“Culturing of ‘unculturable’ human microbiota reveals novel taxa and extensive sporulation.”
Authors: Hilary Browne, Samuel Forster, Blessing Anonye, Nitin Kumar, B. Anne Neville, Mark Stares, David Goulding & Trevor Lawley